Indian Navy on Friday received the first pair of Lockheed Martin MH-60R “Romeo” Mutirole Helicopters (MRH) at Naval Air Station in North Island, San Diego. The two helicopters are part of a deal worth US$2.4 billion, signed in 2020 for a total of 24 helicopters.
The handing over ceremony commenced in presence of senior leadership from the US Navy, Indian Navy and Lockheed Martin Corporation. The documents related to helicopter acquisition were exchanged between Vice Adm Kenneth Whitesell, Commander Naval Air Forces, US Navy and Vice Adm Ravneet Singh, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy. The Indian ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu accepted the helicopters.
Lockheed Martin in an official statement congratulated the Indian Navy for the acquisition and assured smooth operations with the platform, that is compatible to operate according to Indian operational environment and requirements.
The event was also marked with a special flypast by the helicopters, reflecting the growing cooperation between the two states in the field of military cooperation and development. William L. Blair, Vice President and Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin India, thanked Indian Navy for their support in the programme.
“We appreciate the tremendous confidence in Team Seahawk by the Indian Navy through their selection of the Romeo. We stand committed to making this program a tremendous success in partnership with the United States Navy and the Indian Navy”, he said.
The Conversion training of Indian Navy crew is already under process at the US Naval Air Station North Island San Diego. The two airframes will be stationed at the base until the completion of the training and then will be delivered to India, expected by year end.
The growing partnership between US and India for developing defence infrastructure is an indication of India’s approach to strengthen relations with the west. The Indian armed forces also procured multiple US origin weapon systems in the past few years, including P-8I “Poseidon” Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), AH-64E “Guardian” attack helicopters, CH-47H “Chinook” transport helicopters, SIG-716 assault rifles, etc.. With the MH-60 deal, the US also expects to bag additional weapon sales with India, hoping for the Indian Navy’s own MRCA competition, where it is pitching the Boeing F/A-18E/F “Super Hornet” Block 3 aircraft against the French Dassault Rafale M.
The MH-60R is claimed to be “the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter” by Lockheed Martin, and for good reason – there’s already more than 300 of them operating worldwide.
The fleet will boost the Indian Navy’s anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations. The MH-60 is capable of conducting highly efficient reconnaissance missions. They will come loaded with torpedoes, sensors and missiles.
The multi-role helicopters will be deployed on warships and will be very effective in keeping the submarine threat posed by the extra-regional Navies, including China and Pakistan, in the Indian Ocean Region.
These helicopters will be used in Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW), Command and Control, ESM roles besides Search and Rescue (SAR) and Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP) roles that allows full flexibility according to environment.