India is set to give final approval to a $2.6 billion deal for military helicopters from U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin ahead of a proposed visit by U.S. President Donald Trump this month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is trying to pull out all the stops for Trump’s trip in a bid to reaffirm strategic ties between the two countries, which have been buffeted by sharp differences over trade, to counter China. India’s defense purchases from the United States have reached $17 billion since 2007 as it has pivoted away from traditional supplier Russia, looking to modernize its military and narrow the gap with China.
India is expected to clear the purchase of 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Indian navy in the next two weeks, a defense official and an industry source briefed on the matter separately told Reuters. The multirole helicopters will be equipped with Hellfire missiles and are meant to help the Indian navy track submarines in the Indian Ocean, where China is expanding its presence. Many of India’s warships are without any helicopters because of years of underfunding, and the navy had sought their acquisition as a top priority. To cut short lengthy negotiations between Lockheed and the Indian government, the helicopters that will be deployed on India’s warships will be bought through the U.S. foreign military sales route, under which the two governments will agree details of the deal.
The Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk (or Sea Hawk) is a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission United States Navy helicopter based on the United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family. The most significant modifications are the folding main rotor and a hinged tail to reduce its footprint aboard ships. The U.S. Navy uses the H-60 airframe under the model designations SH-60B, SH-60F, HH-60H, MH-60R, and MH-60S. Able to deploy aboard any air-capable frigate, destroyer, cruiser, fast combat support ship, amphibious assault ship, or aircraft carrier, the Seahawk can handle anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), naval special warfare (NSW) insertion, search and rescue (SAR), combat search and rescue (CSAR), vertical replenishment (VERTREP), and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC).