NEW DELHI — India on Wednesday cleared the purchase of 24 Sikorsky MH-60R naval multirole helicopters through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, according to a Ministry of Defence official.
The acquisition, which is worth about $2.12 billion, was approved by India’s top defense clearance body, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The MoD had approved funds for the purchase in August 2018.
The clearance comes ahead of a two-day visit to India by U.S. President Donald Trump beginning Feb. 24.
The MoD official said a formal government-to-government contract for the MH-60R helicopters will be signed once cost negotiations are finalized. No timeline has been set, but delivery will take place three years after the contract is inked, he added.
A previous attempt to buy naval multirole helos failed when the MoD canceled the planned purchase of 16 S-70B Seahawks from Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, in June 2017 following expiry of the $1 billion price tag offer.
The 2009 tender for 16 helos was sent to Sikorsky, NHIndustries, Airbus Helicopters and Russian Helicopters. The S-70B was selected over NHIndustries’ NH90 helicopter in 2011; the other potential contenders did not participate.
The cost of weapons was not included in the original program, but the recently approved deal for 24 MH-60Rs does include a weapons package, according to an Indian Navy official. The helicopters are to be armed with multi-mode radar, Hellfire missiles, Mark 54 torpedoes and precision-kill rockets.
The Navy plans to use the helicopters for its front-line warships to replace its outdated British Sea King Mark 42 helicopters. They are also to be used in limited intelligence gathering roles, for surveillance missions, and in search and rescue efforts, the Navy official said, adding that the procurement of the helicopters is the top-most priority for the service. The helicopters are also expected to have the capability for conducting amphibious assault and anti-submarine warfare missions.
Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.