MH60-R aboard USS Shoup
MH60-R aboard USS Shoup
Courtesy : Lockheed Martin
  • A chopper of choice for Indian Navy

By Sangeeta Saxena

New Delhi. 12 June 2020. The US Department of Defence website  today stated, “ Lockheed Martin Corp., Owego, New York, is awarded a not-to-exceed $375,488,269 undefinitized contract modification (P00014) to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-19-C-0013). This modification provides non-recurring efforts to design and develop unique hardware and software for the Multi-Role Helicopter MH-60R development program for the Government of India. Work will be performed in Owego, New York (81%); and Stratford, Connecticut (19%), and is expected to be complete by June 2025. Foreign Military Sales funds for $117,700,000 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.”

MH60-R helicopters will be just the right and much needed entry into the Indian fleet with advanced combat systems like sensors, missiles, and torpedoes to track and hunt boats and submarines. With growing hostile environment in the seas and ocean surrounding the Indian peninsula , in February 2020, India became the fifth country to add 24 MH-60Rs to its fleet after United States, Denmark, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

Tom Kane
Tom Kane

 “India’s selection of the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ multi-mission helicopter provides the Indian Navy with the most advanced anti-surface/anti-submarine warfare helicopter in operation today. The MH-60R offers the lowest risk and best value option because the aircraft is already in full production and globally supportable,” said  Tom Kane, director of Sikorsky Naval Helicopters Programs, while speaking virtually to the Indian media recently.

The Indian Romeos will carry specific satellite communications and datalinks unique to the Indian military. The helicopters will be outfitted with the AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low-Frequency Sonar (ALFS) as well as the AN/APS-153(V) multi-mode radar. With anti-surface, anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue missions capabilities, MH60-Rs will be just the helicopters required in the Indian Ocean Region. The choppers will be armed with Hellfire missiles, precision kill weapon systems, and MK 54 torpedoes.

“By this time next year in June, we anticipate delivering the first couple of aircraft to the Indian Navy to begin training. Then an additional aircraft will be delivered in 2022 and after that I really do not want to go into specifics because the Indian Navy and the US Navy still have to lay out the specifics of the delivery,” he added.

On an optimistic note Kane responding to a question reiterated that the conditions created by COVID-19 will not effect the delivery schedule for the Indian Navy. Three  Romeos, currently in preservation status in upstate New York, are slated to be the first training aircraft for Indian crews who will learn how to fly the helicopter in the US.

Kane informed, “We have been in full production and it is really a globally supported aircraft and it is one of things that distinguishes our aircraft from competitors. Once they get out in the fleet, we know how to support them with the repairs and spares to make sure they keep flying.”

MH-60R helicopter is powered by two General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines rated at 1,425kW. It has a maximum and cruise speed of 267 km/h and 168 km/h respectively, with a maximum flying range of 834 km. It weighs around 6,895 kg and has a maximum take-off weight of 10,659 kg.

Bill Blair
Bill Blair

Bill Blair, Vice President and Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin India  who was also a part of the virtual press meet stated, “additional follow-on work will also be required for unique modifications on the systems for the Indian requirement, which is currently going through the bid and proposal process.”

Both Blair and Kane agreed that the Romeos will enhance  interoperability  between the Indian Navy and the US Navy, and even those navies such as Australia’s thereby making it a great asset for the Indo-Pacific reion. “It will greatly improve interoperability between the two navies in the Indo-Pacific region,” Kane said. “Integrated mission capability with the warships and the other assets will contribute to the interoperability,” Blair added.

Romeos’ fully Integrated Mission System builds complete situational awareness and actionable knowledge, enabling target engagement both close-in and over-the-horizon. 98% Availability (Ready Basic Aircraft) and less than $5K (USD) cost per flight hour give it the lowest life-cycle cost in its class.

“We are pleased the government of India has selected the U.S. Navy’s MH-60R. We’re confident that this aircraft will provide unparalleled capability to the Indian Navy for years to come,” said Capt. Todd Evans, MH-60 program manager for the U.S. Navy in a message to Lockheed Martin.

Over 300 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters worldwide with over 600,000 flight hours accumulated MH-60R has sophisticated night vision with fully integrated GPS capable of carrying out operations around the clock. The MH-60R helicopter is designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers with a proven track record. India has made a choice which will definitely  make its military arsenal formidable. The count down has begun!