India wants to buy 24 multi-role MH-60 ‘Romeo’ anti-submarine helicopters from the United States at an estimated cost of $2 billion.
Quoting defence industry sources, a PTI report Saturday said the government-to-government deal is expected to be finalised in a few months.
This follows a letter from India to the US for an “urgent requirement” of the 24 helicopters for the Indian Navy. In August, the Defence Acquisition Council had approved the procurement of these helicopters, as well as 111 utility helicopters.
Here’s all you need to know about the ‘Romeo’ helicopters, and why India needs them:
What are ‘Romeo’ helicopters?
The MH-60 ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopters are advanced naval machines equipped with sophisticated combat systems – sensors, missiles and torpedoes – to track and hunt enemy boats.
According to Lockheed Martin, the top American manufacturer of the MH-60 choppers, they are deployed by the US Navy as its primary anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface weapons system for open ocean and littoral zones.
Naval forces of many countries, including the Royal Australian Navy, also deploy these choppers.
For the Indian Navy, the choppers are set to employ Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedoes.
The submarine hunters will have anti-surface warfare capabilities too, which means they will be capable of detecting surface threats and taking action against enemy ships.
The choppers are also capable of performing other non-combat maritime roles such as search and rescue, logistics support, personnel transport, medical evacuation and surveillance. They will be able to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers.
How will they benefit India?
The helicopters are expected to be delivered between 2020 and 2024, if the deal is finalised soon.
However, this attempt has been made after a delay of almost a decade, despite repeated push from the Indian Navy.
The helicopters are expected to provide a big boost to the navy, which is grappling with a dwindling and ageing British-built Sea King fleet.
The deal is also crucial because China has been making aggressive forays into the Indian Ocean Region while expanding its naval forces, in order to become a “blue water navy”.
Long-term plan ::
Last year, the Indian Navy had issued a global request for information for 111 utility and 123 multi-role helicopters.
According to reports, while the emergency procurement of the 24 ‘Romeo’ helicopters will be done under the US Foreign Military Sales programme, the deal will also have an offset requirement, entailing the long-term manufacture of 123 multi-role helicopters in India.