New Delhi: India is considering a $2-billion proposal to procure multi role helicopters for the Indian Navy through a direct government purchase from the US.
The proposal could go ahead given a critical requirement of the Navy for choppers that can undertake missions ranging from anti-submarine operations to fire support and early warning at sea. The proposal under the foreign military sales route is to purchase 24 of the advanced MH 60 ‘Romeo’ choppers that can be deployed from warships and is being considered as the fastest way to add the capability to the Navy, rather than a competition that could take years to finalise.
The last attempt to purchase these choppers was thwarted after nine years of efforts in 2016 after negotiations broke off with US manufacturer Sikorsky over differences in pricing.
The Navy requires at least 123 of the Naval Multi Role Helicopters (NMRH) and had released a global request for information for the same in August 2017. However, the proposal for 123 new choppers, has not progressed as fast as the Navy would have liked, leading to the consideration of the US offer for a direct government sale of the Romeo.
It is unclear on how this could impact the larger procurement of choppers. “An FMS procurement of MH-60R would provide the Indian Navy an expeditious avenue to obtain a proven, multi-mission maritime helicopter capability to the Indian Navy,” a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the choppers said. The US company did not directly answer queries on the status of the procurement.
The NMRH are required to replace the Sea King fleet. The Navy has flagged helicopters as one of its most critical needs at several top-level presentations before the government.