Last week, the United States Navy announced a $904.8 million contract modification awarded to defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky for 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. The contract includes $113.1 million from the Navy’s fiscal year 2020 aircraft procurement account along with $791.7 million in foreign military sales money, as 21 of the submarine-hunting aircraft are for India while three are for the U.S. Navy.
The new helicopters will supersede India’s current fleet of British Sea King anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters and could enter service by 2024. India has been involved in a decade-long process to replace the aging British naval helicopters, but it has been seen as urgent as Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships, underwater drones and even “maritime militia” civilian-flagged fishing boats from China have been operating in the Indian Ocean.
The need for the ASW helicopters in the Indian Ocean was seen as so dire that the three originally earmarked for the U.S. Navy will be delivered to the Indian Navy by next spring, and all three will be modified to Indian standards.
“This really was one of the higher priorities the [Indian] navy had, to get these aircraft delivered,” Tom Kane, director of Sikorsky’s Naval Helicopter Programs told reporters as reported by Breaking Defense. “I requested that the aircraft be made available on an accelerated basis. So I think there is an urgent need.”