India buying Sikorsky MH-60R helicopter from US

INTRODUCTION

According to the latest reports the US firm, Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky has officially signed a contract to provide 24 MH-60 helicopters to the Indian Navy for anti-submarine operations in the Indian Ocean region, and the first helicopter will be delivered to the Indian Navy in mid-2021. The US Navy has also allowed the US government to provide three brand-new helicopters from their inventory to the Indian Navy so that the Indian Navy can begin training on a more accelerated basis. This development comes after the Chinese Ministry of National Defence announced the deployment of the 35th task force of the Chinese Navy to carry out patrols in the Indian Ocean which is considered India's geopolitical sphere of influence.


MH-60R HELICOPTER

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said during a statement. This proposed sale will support the policy and national security of the U.S by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to enhance the safety of a serious defensive partner which continues to be a crucial force for political stability, peace, and economic progress within the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region” DSCA added further “The proposed sale will provide India the potential to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions alongside the power to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay. 

India will use the improved capability as a deterrent to regional threats and strengthen its homeland defense.” India had made the request for MH-60R Seahawk in 2018. The deal is estimated to be worth around $2.6 billion. 

In this article, Defence Talks, analyzes why India is buying 24 Lockheed Martin-Sikorky MH-60R Seahawk Romeo from the U.S?

NEED

The rivalry between India and China has been simmering. China has invested heavily in increasing its military might and a lot of focus has been put on expanding its Navy. It has also been actively pursuing which many experts call the 'String of Pearls’ strategy. This strategy aims to increase Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region. The idea is to possess Chinese military and commercial facilities along sea lines of communication, which extend from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan within the Horn of Africa. 


The sea lines run through several major maritime chokepoints like the Strait of Mandeb, the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Hormuz, and therefore the Lombok Strait as well as other strategic maritime centers in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Somalia. 

MH-60R helicopter is designed for hunting submarines and ships as well as undertaking search-and-rescue operations The Indian Navy currently operates 11 Kamov-28 and 17 Sea King ASW helicopters. But these have very limited capability and almost half of them are not flightworthy The induction of Romeos is vital to fill the capability gap. 

MH-60R HELICOPTER OVERVIEW

The Sikorsky MH-60 Seahawk may be a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission helicopter supported the U.S Army UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family. The helicopter can fly at a maximum speed of 146 km/h which is 270 km/h or 168 mph and has a range of 450 nmi or 518 mi or 834 km. It has a service ceiling of 12,000 ft or 3,580 m. 

Being multirole capable it can handle anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), naval special warfare (NSW) insertion, search and rescue (SAR), combat search and rescue (CSAR), vertical replenishment (VERTREP), and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). The helicopter can be deployed from frigate, destroyer, cruiser, a fast combat support ship, or aircraft carrier. MH-60 R that India is going for is one of the several variants of the MH-60 and is nicked named the Romeo. The MH-60R combines the features of the SH-60B and SH-60F. 

ARMAMENTS 

Offensive mission capability of MH-60R Seahawk include anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASUW), so the weapons are geared mainly for those roles. MH-60R helicopters can carry AGM-114 Hellfires for a strike against small vessels and land targets. It has a top speed of Mach 1.3 and a range of 5 miles or 8 km. MH-60R helicopters will be armed with MK 54 torpedoes It is Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo developed by Raytheon. It has a speed of more than 40 km or 74.1 km/h. It carries a 96.8 lbs or 44 kg, high-explosive. 


AGM-114 Hellfire des Apache AH-64 | yetdark | Flickr
AGM-114 HELLFIRE
MH-60R will also have APKWS 70mm laser-guided rockets. It has a max speed of Mach 2.9 and ranges around 3 miles or 5 km. The MH-60R lacks an anti-ship missile in its normal configuration. But according to Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Naval Strike Missile (NSM) will be integrated into India’s MH-60Rs NSM is a 5th generation anti-ship missile developed by Norway-based Kongsberg Gruppen and U.S. missile maker Raytheon. The missile has a range of 100 miles or 185 km and is capable of high subsonic speeds. 

It has sea skim mode by which it travels very close to the surface, making it hard to detect and intercept. It is equipped with a 276 pounds or 125 kg multi-purpose blast/fragmentation warhead. NSM features an imaging IR-seeker which is complemented by inertial/GPS navigation. The missile also has a built-in database of representative ship types to distinguish between intended targets and other objects. Importantly it can be used as an anti-ship missile as a for taking out land targets. 

CONCLUSION

A strong Indian Navy is essential for India, keeping in view the Chinese activities. Sikorsky MH-60R will certainly add to its capacity. The quick approval of the deal also demonstrates the increasing closeness between India and the U.S.

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