WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has cleared a potential sale of 12 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters to South Korea, with an estimated cost of $800 million.

The potential deal, announced Wednesday on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, is the third major foreign MH-60R sale approved this year. In April, DSCA announced India is seeking to buy 24 of the Sikorsky-made rotorcraft; in June, it was announced Greece plans to buy seven. A year earlier, Mexico was cleared to procure eight MH-60R systems.

However, Seoul has not settled on the MH-60R as its choice for a new helicopter. With ongoing competitions around the globe, the State Department will often seek to preapprove potential sales before a decision has been made. Lockheed Martin, the parent company of Sikorsky, argued that the planned sales to India will help lower costs for South Korean MH-60Rs.

“The Republic of Korea is one of the major political and economic powers in East Asia and the Western Pacific and a key partner of the United States in ensuring peace and stability in that region. It is vital to U.S. national interests to assist the Republic of Korea in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability,” reads the DSCA announcement, posted just hours before U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was to arrive in Seoul.

“The proposed sale will improve the Republic of Korea Navy’s capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions, along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay,” DSCA said.

Along with the helicopters, the proposed sale includes 13 APS-153(V) multi-mode radars, 25 T-700-GE-401C engines, 12 Airborne Low Frequency Sonar systems, 24 embedded GPS/inertial navigation systems with selective availability/anti-spoofing modules, four M-240D crew-served guns, four GAU-21 crew-served guns, and 1,000 AN/SSQ-36/53/62 sonobuoys, among other equipment.

Industrial offsets are likely but have yet to be defined. As with all DSCA announcements, the deal must be approved by the Senate and then go through negotiations, during which price and quantity can change.

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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