US to sell 24 anti-submarine choppers to India 

US to sell 24 anti-submarine choppers to India 

The US has approved the sale of 24 multi-role MH-60 'Romeo' Seahawk helicopters to India at an estimated cost of USD2.4 billion, the State Department has said. AFP file photo

The US has approved the sale of 24 MH-60R submarine-hunting helicopters to India in a $2.6-billion deal, bringing a sense of relief to the Indian Navy which is in a crying need for such choppers to operate its expanding fleet of destroyers and frigates.

The navy desperately requires the choppers because the blue water force is currently operating nearly 140 ships and submarines with only 16 ageing Sea King helicopters, the first variant of which was inducted in 1971.

Due to such critical shortage, the navy was pushing the Defence Ministry for nearly 12 years to buy some multi-role helicopters for operations from the deck. However, past efforts to purchase such choppers failed.

The latest proposal to procure the anti-submarine warfare helicopters from the US in a government-to-government deal was approved by the Defence Ministry late last year.

“India has requested to buy 24 MH-60R multi-mission helicopters. The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to India of 24 MH-60R multi-mission helicopters for an estimated cost of $2.6 billion. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the Donald Trump administration said in a notification issued to the Congress on Tuesday.

As per the US law, the proposal has to be formally approved by the Congress before the actual sale can take place.

This is also the first Indo-US defence deal after the two countries in September signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) — one of the foundation agreements that Washington wanted New Delhi to sign in order to set the ground for the transfer of high-tech US military equipment.

The transfer of some of the technologies as part of the MH-60R package, sources said, was possible only because of the COMCASA.

The helicopters — manufactured by Lockheed Martin — will come with Hellfire missiles, torpedoes, guns and sophisticated communication equipment.

“The proposed sale will provide India the 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. India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence and will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces,” said the notification issued by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency.

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