India Signs Navy Chopper Deal With US, Weapons Still Being Negotiated
New Delhi: India has started the process of acquiring 24 state-of-the-art anti-submarine warfare helicopters for the Navy from the US firm Lockheed Martin after signing a $905 million deal.
The MH-60R helicopters -- which would replace obsolete Indian Navy Sea King helicopters, first acquired from the UK in 1971 -- are meant to detect and, if necessary, engage Chinese and Pakistani submarines and warships in the Indian Ocean region.
The overall value of the contract signed is less than half the $2.6 billion package which had been announced by the US State Department in April 2019 which included the cost of the choppers, their sensors and communication systems, and several weapon systems including Hellfire missiles which can targets ships, MK 54 torpedoes and precision strike rocket systems.
These helicopters are also designed to fire the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) developed by the Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. The NSM can engage warships at a range of 185 kilometers. The original package India was looking at included the provision of NSM training missiles, a precursor to a potential deal for the missile system.
NDTV has learned that negotiations for the full package which was discussed is still underway with no closure at the moment on the exact weapons and sensor fit the Indian Navy will eventually receive with the helicopters.
The deal itself is being handled through the US Navy which has allowed Lockheed Martin to speed up the delivery process by transferring three MH-60Rs from the US Navy's inventory of undelivered MH-60R choppers to India. This will allow Indian Navy pilots and engineers to train on the chopper prior to full-scale induction on board aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates in the fleet.
For several years, the Indian Navy has been operating state of the art warships including the made-in-India Kolkata Class destroyers without any modern anti-submarine helicopters on board, the lack of which has been considered a glaring operational deficiency at a time when China has markedly stepped up its presence in the Indian Ocean region by operating a full-scale base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
The first MH-60R helicopters from the US will arrive next year.
(Inputs and image from ndtv.com)
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