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Indian Navy Helicopters

The Indian Navy planned mid-life upgrades of 11,000 kg Kamov-28 and 9,700 kg Sea King anti-submarine helicopters for Rs 600 crore and Rs 850 crore respectively. The anti-submarine and anti-surface Sea King helicopters were built by Westland under licence from Sikorksy. The Indian Navy had about 40 Sea King copters initially but by 2008 had only about half of them, and most of them were over 30-years old. In 2003 a $150 million modernisation plan has been approved for the Westland Sea King helicopters. The Sea Kings were received from Westland Helicopters of the U.K but fell into disrepair when the USA imposed military sanctions, preventing India from sourcing Sikorsky- manufactured original equipment parts. The Indian Navy then attempted to obtain some Sea King spares from local industry sources, including components for gearboxes, rotor systems, sonar systems and defence electronics items for avionics. However, these fell short of reliability requirements and led to some limitations in the ASW operations. The mid-life upgrade now involves replacing the engine, avionics systems, mission computer, radar system and missiles.

During 2005-2006 Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) set the ball rolling for the design, development and manufacture of a 10-ton class multi-role helicopter for the services. The project would be undertaken in collaboration with a reputed foreign company. In March 2007 HAL invited proposals from international partners including Russian helicopter manufacturer for co-development of a Multi-role Helicopter (10 tonnes).

The Indian Navy is pursuing a separate program for 123 Naval Multi-Role Helicopters (NMRH) under the Make in India initiative. By mid-2008 the Navy planned to induct new 10-ton-class multi-role helicopters, an order estimated to be worth $1 billion. In September 2008 the Indian Ministry of Defence issued a tender for at least 16 advanced multi-role naval helicopters. AgustaWestland's AW101, EADS's EC 725 Cougar and Sikorsky's Seahawk were expected to compete for the contract, which could expand by an additional 44 units. The multi-role helicopters will be equipped with anti-ship and anti-submarine armaments, including cruise missiles and torpedoes. The helicopters, capable of mid-air refueling, will operate from naval vessels and land bases.

In November 2008 the Indian Navy decided not to use the 'Dhruv' advanced light helicopter, manufactured by HAL, Bangalore, for anti-submarine warfare and sent a 'request for proposal' (RFP) for another multi-role helicopter. The Navy had acquired ten 'Dhruv' helicopters from HAL with the understanding that the first six would be used in a utility role, for search and rescue and transportation, while the remaining four would be converted for ASW operations. However, because of their size and weight, these helicopters were found unsuitable to discharge their function at sea for ASW and the Navy decided to use all ten in the utility role.

On 14 February 2009 Russian helicopter officials at the AeroIndia 2009 show said that the Russian aerospace complex was gearing up to bid for a total order of 320 military helicopters from the three wings of the Indian defence services. Rosoboronexport was participating in a number of tender involving the Ka-226T multi-role helicopter and the Mi-28H Night Hunter helicopter gunship. The company was in talks with the ministry of defence for the modernization of radar systems installed on Ka-31 helicopters used by the Indian Navy.

The armed forces are looking to induct as many as 900 helicopters in the coming decade through 2025, including 384 light-utility and observation, 90 naval multi-role, 65 light combat, 22 heavy-duty attack, 139 medium-lift and 15 heavy-lift, among others.

MH-60R ‘Romeo’ Seahawk Multi-Mission helicopter

The Indian Navy had been interested in procuring a Sea King replacement from overseas for some years, with the Naval Helicopter program being re-tendered in 2007 because none of the respondents were said to have met the technical specifications (itself not an unheard of phenomenon in India).

In January 2009 the US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation offered S-70B Seahawk multi-role helicopters to replace the Indian Navy's ageing Sea King helicopter fleet. The Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation responded to the RFP (request for proposal) from the Indian Navy for replacement of 16 Sea King helicopters, though it expected the Indian Navy to place orders for more than 16. The US Navy has also offered the Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin-built MH-60R for the same order. The Sikorsky-built MH-60R multi-role helicopter is the US Navy's recently deployed anti-submarine and surface warfare helicopter with Lockheed Martin equipment. Sikorsky offered both the S-70B Seahawk as a commercial direct sale and the MH-60R as an FMS under the DSCA.

Sikorsky also offered its helicopters for the Indian Coast Guard, which wants to replace 16 of its helicopters, having responded to the Coast Guard's RFI (Request for Information). Sikorsky planned to offer either the S-70 or the S76 or even the bigger S-92 for the Indian Coast Guard.

After waiting for almost a decade for anti-submarine hunter helicopters, in August 2018, then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved a deal for MH-60R choppers, manufactured by the Lockheed Martin group, which can operate from Naval vessels. These helicopters will help in countering China in the Indian Ocean region are going to replace the Sea King Mk 42B/C and Ka-28 helicopters currently in service.

Currently, the Indian Navy uses Chetak Helicopters. The range of Chetak’s is limited to a radius of about 10 km, whether from shore or from any floating platform. The Seahawks can operate for long ranges both from shores and ships and can land on the flight on any Indian naval ship, be it corvettes or guided-missile destroyers. Its avionics, communication and radars are advanced and state-of-the-art and have proven to be one of the best in anti-submarine warfare. It is capable of firing air-launched torpedoes and Hellfire missiles.

As the Navy’s next-generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter, the MH-60R Sea Hawk is the cornerstone of the Navy’s Helicopter Concept of Operations. Anti-Submarine Warfare and Surface Warfare are the MH-60R’s primary missions. Secondary missions include Electromagnetic Warfare, Search and Rescue, Vertical Replenishment, Naval Surface Fire Support, logistics support, personnel transport, Medical Evacuation, and VHF/UHF/Link Communication Relay.

On 02 April 2019 the US State Department made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to India of twenty-four (24) MH-60R Multi-Mission helicopters for an estimated cost of $2.6 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale.

The Government of India requested to buy twenty-four (24) MH-60R Multi-Mission helicopters, equipped with the following: thirty (30) APS-153(V) Multi-Mode radars (24 installed, 6 spares); sixty (60) T700-GE-401C engines (48 installed and 12 spares); twenty-four (24) Airborne Low Frequency System (ALFS) (20 installed, 4 spares); thirty (30) AN/AAS-44C(V) Multi-Spectral Targeting System (24 installed, 6 spares); fifty-four (54) Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) (48 installed, 6 spares); one thousand (1,000) AN/SSQ-36/53/62 sonobuoys; ten (10) AGM-114 Hellfire missiles; five (5) AGM-114 M36-E9 Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM); four (4) AGM-114Q Hellfire Training missiles; thirty-eight (38) Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) rockets; thirty (30) MK 54 torpedoes; twelve (12) M-240D Crew Served guns; twelve (12) GAU-21 Crew Served guns; two (2) Naval Strike Missile Emulators; four (4) Naval Strike Missile Captive Inert Training missiles; one (1) MH-60B/R Excess Defense Article (EDA) USN legacy aircraft.

Also included are seventy (70) AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Devices; fifty-four (54) AN/ARC-210 RT-1990A(C) radios with COMSEC (48 installed, 6 spares); thirty (30) AN/ARC-220 High Frequency radios (24 installed, 6 spares); thirty (30) AN/APX-123 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponders (24 installed, 6 spares); spare engine containers; facilities study, design, and construction; spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; communication equipment; ferry support; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support. The total estimated cost is $2.6 billion.

This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defensive partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.

The proposed sale will provide India the capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay. India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. India will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems, Owego, New York. The purchaser typically requests offsets. Any offset agreement will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 19 February, 2020 cleared a US $2.4 billion deal to purchase 24 American multi-role MH-60 ‘Romeo’ anti-submarine helicopters for the Indian Navy ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit the following week. Trump visited India from February 24 to 25 to meet with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Trump's first official visit to India came at a time when the two nations share an ever-closer defense partnership, but also have sharp differences over trade and investment barriers. Trump said the US was looking forward to providing the "best and most feared military equipment" to India. He said the country was prepared to supply India with defense equipment such as helicopters, drones and missile systems. The two countries on 25 February 2020 signed $3 billion (€2.77 billion) worth of defense deals. This included 24 anti-submarine navy helicopters, and the two will discuss a $1.9 billion missile defense shield for the capital.

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:12:10 ZULU