With growing submarine activity from China and Pakistan in its cross-hairs, the Indian Navy expects to significantly boost its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability with the acquisition of Lockheed-Sikorsky MH-60R (Seahawk) helicopters.
The Indian MoD accorded approval for the purchase of 24 MH-60R helicopters in June this year and sent a formal request to the United States government to buy the helicopters; a deal potentially worth US$ 1.8B for Lockheed Martin- Sikorsky. The next step in the acquisition process is for the US Congress to approve the Indian request and allow Lockheed Martin to proceed with the deal.
In fact, the chief of the Indian Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba has said that one Chinese submarine was detected by the Indian Navy (IN) in the Indian Ocean region during October this year. Lanba who was speaking at a press conference in Delhi yesterday, described the potential acquisition of eight Chinese submarines by Pakistan as a ‘challenge,’ though the IN had maritime superiority over the Pakistan navy.
One of the key elements of the 2018 Indo-US Naval exercise (Malabar) has been the joint ASW operations, a growing concern for India as it faces submarines of the Chinese navy that regularly deploy in the Indian Ocean region. The US Navy had deployed the MH-60R during the exercise giving the IN a first-hand experience of working with the US Navy’s foremost anti-submarine warfare helicopters.
The MH-60R airframe is based on that of the Sikorsky S-70B, a venerable but ageing naval helicopter. The MH-60R comes with the latest generation cockpit and avionics, and changes to its tailwheel to ease handling on a ship deck.
The MH-60R comes with a variety of sensors and weapons including the potent MK54 torpedo that can take out both ships and submarines. The exact configuration of weapons and sensors for the Indian MH-60R will be known once the notification of sale to the US Congress is made public.