India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the purchase of 24 Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters for its navy at an estimated cost of US$2.6 Billion. A green light from the CCS is the final step before the inking of a formal contract under India’s procurement process. Deliveries are expected within five years of contract signature. The deal could be consummated during a visit to India by US president Donald Trump from 24 to 25 February.
The MH-60R will be acquired via the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route and provide anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities, which has also contracted for weapons such as AGM-114 Hellfire, Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, Mk54 torpedoes, and two types of crew served guns. The Indian navy suffers a debilitating shortage of modern helicopters across all types, with a stated shortfall of 61 integral shipborne helicopters for its warships. Its Ka-28 fleet is being upgraded under a $294 million contract signed in July 2016 which scheduled for completion by July 2021. Also to be procured are 10 more Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters, adding to the existing fleet of 14.The backbone of naval aviation remains the obsolete Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Chetak - a licence-built Aerospatiale Alouette III, first delivered in February 1966. There are 51 in service and eight new-build helicopters were ordered in August 2017. The first example from this order was delivered in July 2019 and deliveries will conclude this year.