Indian Navy is all set to get 24 state-of-the-art anti-submarine warfare helicopters from the US firm Lockheed Martin in a whopping $905 million deal.
The MH-60R helicopters will replace the outdated Indian Navy Sea King helicopters and are designed in a way to find and engage Chinese and Pakistani submarines and warships in the Indian Ocean region.
The first helicopter delivery to the Indian Navy is anticipated in spring 2021.
In the official US government contract notice, the US Navy is ordering three MH-60Rs, while India is ordering 21 examples.
"The US Navy has allowed us to leverage three aircraft from their inventory of brand new aircraft that have never been introduced into the fleet — in order to provide them to the Indian Navy so they can begin training on a more accelerated basis than might normally be possible," said the director of Sikorsky naval helicopter programmes, Tom Kane.
This contract is less than half the $2.6 billion package which was announced by the US State Department in April 2019 which included the price of the choppers, their communication systems and weapon systems including Hellfire missiles which can targets ships, MK 54 torpedoes and precision strike rocket systems.
These helicopters are also made in a way to fire the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) developed by the Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace that can engage warships at a range of 185 kilometers.
The initial package included the provision of NSM training missiles for India.
Negotiations and further details of the package are still underway.
The deal is being monitored by the US Navy which has permitted Lockheed Martin to fast track the delivery by shifting three MH-60Rs from the US Navy's inventory of undelivered MH-60R choppers to India.
This is likely to help Indian Navy pilots and engineers get trained on the chopper even before the full induction on board aircraft carriers, destroyers in the fleet.
The Indian Navy has been operating state of the art warships including the made-in-India Kolkata Class destroyers without any modern anti-submarine helicopters on board.
The Indian navy is also looking for 111 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace its old fleet of Hindustan Aeronautics Chetak helicopters that are intended for search, rescue, casualty evacuation, passenger and cargo transportation and torpedo drop roles. India expects 95 helicopters out of the 111 Naval Utility Helicopters to be manufactured in country.