Two U.S.-made anti-submarine helicopters reach India; all you want to know about the MH 60R Seahawk deal

The ordered helicopters have been made in the latest configuration developed for Saudi Arabia, with additional modifications for the Indian Armed Forces. 

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

On July 28, two Sikorsky M.H. 60 Romeo Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters were delivered to the Indian Navy at Cochin International Airport. A third helicopter is planned to be delivered in August 2022. The delivery of all 24 M.H. 60R helicopters is expected to be completed by 2025.

The Indian Navy has already taken possession of the first three helicopters to train the crew at the U.S. naval base NAS Pensacola. The first two Seahawks were delivered in July 2021, and the third one was delivered later.

Indian Sailors are being trained for subjects aviation machinist mates, aviation structural mechanic, aviation ordnanceman, aviation electrician’s mate and aviation electronics technician rates within the U.S. Navy. The first 14 Indian sailors arrived in the facility in June 2021. The courses have been designed to address the needs of the Indian Navy’s new aircraft and equipment.

The Indian MH-6R Seahawk

The ordered helicopters have been made in the latest configuration developed for Saudi Arabia, with additional modifications for the Indian Armed Forces. 

The Royal Saudi Navy or Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) MH-60Rs are of similar anti-surface vessel warfare (ASuW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) standard to the latest helicopters flying with the US Navy (USN), including AN/AAS-44C(V) multi-spectral targeting systems, Raytheon MK 54 torpedoes, AN/SSQ-36/53/62 sonobuoys, AN/AVS-9 night-vision goggles, and crew-served weapons.

The RNSF standard includes the Lockheed Martin AGM-114R Hellfire II air-to-surface missile and BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), also available in the USN version but not typically carried.

Not much is known yet about the India-specific modification, but it is believed that the Indian MH-60R carries the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which makes it the first country to fit any helicopter with the anti-ship missile. Other modifications may include communications and other such equipment common to the IN fleet.

The MH-60R helicopters are expected to complement and replace the ageing British Sea Kinga in the Indian Navy, which has been operating since the 1980s. Sea King Mk42Bs are flown by INAS 330 The Harpoons in Mumbai (INS Shikra) and INAS 336 Flaming Arrows in Cochin (INS Garuda). In addition, the Indian Navy also operates the Sea King Mk42C as an attack helicopter with the Marine Commando Flight unit at INS Shikra and as an attack helicopter at Visakhapatnam.

Indian Navy MH-60R Seahawk deal

A long-term MRH tender to replace the Westland Sea King Mk 42 anti-submarine helicopters used by the Indian Navy had been underway since 2006. In the last stages of the competition, only S-70B (MH-60R) and the European helicopter NH Industries NH90 (NFR) remained. The Indian Navy conducted comparative tests of the MH-60R and NH90 in 2011. 

In the summer of 2014, NH90 was excluded from the tender because a 32.5% stake in NH Industries is owned by AgustaWestland, controlled by the Italian group Finmeccanica, which the Indian Ministry of Defense blacklisted after a well-known corruption scandal with the sale of 12 AW101 helicopters to the Indian Air Force for government transport. Therefore, the final choice of the Indian Navy in the MRH tender in favour of the S-70B was made almost without alternatives.

On December 4, 2014, the Indian Navy awarded the tender for the shipborne multi-purpose helicopter MRH (Multi-Role Helicopter) to the American Sikorsky S-70B helicopter. The designation S-70B is Sikorsky Aircraft’s typical designation for all “commercial” export versions of the offshore versions of the S-70 helicopter. The Indian Navy had chosen a de facto export analogue of the American MH-60R helicopter.

 In total, the Indian Navy planned to purchase 16 Sikorsky S-70B (with an option for eight more aircraft) for more than $ 1 billion. At the same time, it is not excluded that new purchases will follow and that in the future, the number of MRH helicopters purchased by the Indian fleet will reach 100 units. Sikorsky Aircraft had offered to organize the assembly of S-70B helicopters in India.

Delivery of Indian Navy MH 60R Seahawk Helicopters
Delivery of Indian Navy MH 60R Seahawk Helicopters

The Indian government and the US government signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LoA) in February 2020 for the acquisition of 24 M.H. 60R multi-role helicopters. The contract also includes general, technical and logistical support, staff training, and training and training equipment.

Lockheed Martin will supply 21 MH-60Rs. The United States Navy has provided India with three new Romeos from its unused stock for training purposes. To speed up the process of adopting helicopters into service with the Indian Navy, in agreement with the command of the US Navy, Lockheed Martin undertook to transfer three new MH-60Rs, which were originally intended for the US Navy, for the training of Indian specialists. 

In May 2020, the US Navy signed the first $904.8 million contract with Lockheed Martin to supply three MH-60R Seahawks to the US Navy and 21 MH-60Rs to the Government of India. In July 2020, the parties signed a basic contract to modify three MH-60Rs to the configuration of the Indian Navy.

The US Department of Defense, on September 3, 2021, announced the signing of a contract between the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command and Lockheed Martin for additional MH-60R helicopters for the Indian Navy.

The contract provided for the execution of work at the 2nd stage of design and development of hardware and software to create an individual configuration of the MH-60R helicopter following the requirements of the Indian Navy.

The Foreign Military Sales Program agreement was worth $208.114 million. Work is being performed in Owego (NY, 81%) and Stratford, CT, 19% and is expected to be completed in September 2027.

Rossell Techsys, the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) division of Rossell India Limited, was awarded the contract to manufacture Electrical Wire Harness and Interconnect System parts to support the delivery of Lockheed Martin MH-60R helicopters to the Indian Navy. The arrangement allows Lockheed Martin to get offset credits for the platform’s sale.


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