As per the protocol of handing over, there was an exchange of documents between Vice Adm Kenneth Whitesell, Commander Naval Air Forces, US Navy and Vice Adm Ravneet Singh, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (DCNS), Indian Navy.
In the early hours of Saturday, the United States Navy (USN) handed over the first two Sikorsky MH-60R multi-role helicopters (MRH) to the Indian Navy. The formal transfer of the helicopters from the US Navy to the Indian Navy was held at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego and was accepted by the Indian Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu.
Also, as per the protocol of handing over, there was an exchange of documents between Vice Adm Kenneth Whitesell, Commander Naval Air Forces, US Navy and Vice Adm Ravneet Singh, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (DCNS), Indian Navy.
More about the MH-60R
These helicopters are coming through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route and are manufactured by US based Lockheed Martin Corporation.
The deal for 24 MRH was signed for USD 2.6 billion and the balance of the helicopters will come as per the timeline in the contract between the two countries.
For the Indian Navy these helicopters are going to play a critical role in the Indian Ocean Region where the Chinese threat continues and in the Indo-Pacific Region.
The helicopter deal includes training of the pilots and ground crew; spare parts and air-to-ground weapons support.
Financial Express Online had reported in 2020 ahead of the former US President Donald Trump’s visit in February that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had put its seal of approval. In 2018, the Defence Acquisition Council had put its stamp of approval for procuring these helicopters from the US.
The all-weather helicopter is designed to support multiple missions with state of the art avionics/ sensors and will be modified with several India Unique Equipment and weapons, according to the Indian Navy statement.
A naval version of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family was handed over to India. And, with the induction of these MRH, the Indian Navy’s three dimensional capabilities will be further enhanced.
These are fourth -generation MH-60Rs `Romeos’ helicopters and can be loaded with torpedoes and missiles which may be utilized in anti-submarine roles.
What modifications will be made?
Lockheed Martin Company will carry out the modifications based on the specifications given by India, and these will be carried out in Owego, New York; and Stratford, Connecticut, based facilities.
There will be the folding main rotor and a hinged tail – this is going to help in reducing the footprint on board the ships.
Capabilities of the MH-60 R (Romeo)
These helicopters come with the anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW) operations capabilities. Can also play a critical role in search and rescue (SAR), vertical replenishment (VERTREP), and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) and combat search and rescue (CSAR), naval special warfare (NSW) insertion.
These two helicopters are out of the 24 India has signed the deal for with the US Government. As has been reported by Financial Express Online earlier, the India Crew is undergoing training in the US which will help in exploiting these potent helicopters.
From the time of the deal signed, the delivery of all 24 helicopters will take five years and will be replacing the British Sea King helicopters which are in service.
Indian Navy will get more eyes in the sky
It will be a potent combination when MH-60Rs `Romeos’ helicopters will fly along with the Boeing’s P8-I. This will make enemy submarine hunting more strong.
These helicopters are now set to come to India soon and with them the crew undergoing training will return and the next round of crew will go to the US.
Who spearheaded the talks for MH-60R?
The talks were spearheaded by Dr Vivek Lall, who was then the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin.
What did Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky’s spokespersons say:
Sikorsky Maritime & Mission Systems Vice President Hamid Salim, said: “The delivery of the two MH-60R Romeo helicopters to the Indian Navy marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration and partnership between the USN, Indian Navy and Sikorsky.”
Adding, “We are committed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States Navy to support the Indian Naval Forces in the future through capability upgrades and sustainment as the aircraft transitions to the Indian Navy.”
Said William L Blair, Vice President and Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin India: “We appreciate the tremendous confidence placed in Team Seahawk by the Indian Navy through their selection of the Romeo.”
According to him the MH-60R is the most advanced maritime multi-mission helicopter in operation, which is deployed globally, and its mission performance by far, is second to none.