First Indian batch of crew members complete training to fly “Romeo” naval chopper - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla

The 10-month training ended in the United States on April 1; Sikorsky to supply 24 MH-60R naval helicopters, 99 others to be manufactured in India

By Vikas Gupta

Defence News of India, 9 Apr 22

In an important first step towards addressing the gaping combat capability gaps in its capital warships, the first group of Indian Navy crews of its newly acquired MH 60R “Romeo” helicopter have completed training at the U.S. Navy base in San Diego, April 1.

The 10-month course included conversion training and other advanced qualifications on the multi-purpose and deadly MH 60R helicopter – which the Navy has dubbed the “Romeo”. The Indian pilots have flown extensively from the US Navy’s 41st Maritime Attack Helicopter Squadron and earned day and night deck landing qualification aboard a US Navy destroyer .

These crew members will pioneer the introduction of the “Romeo” into the Indian Navy, where it will add pizzazz to its main warships – aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes.

Flying from the helicopter decks of warships, the MH 60Rs will provide them with additional offensive power, especially in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), search and rescue in combat (CSAR), vertical refueling (VERTREP) and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). The Romeo is also designed to fly Marine Commandos (MARCO) into enemy territory for commando missions.

The Indian Navy has contracted for 24 Seahawks in a government to government agreement for $2.12 billion. The first deliveries have already been made by Sikorsky Helicopters, which is a subsidiary of the world’s largest aerospace and defense company, Lockheed Martin.

Successive heads of the Indian Navy have identified the shortage of carrier-based multi-role helicopters (MRH) as one of the Navy’s most worrying operational deficits. Currently, Navy warships make do with a handful of decades-old Seaking Mark 42B/C helicopters. As the Seakings withdrew, the helicopter hangars of the Indian warships emptied, greatly reducing their combat capability.

Given this shortfall, the Navy contracted for 24 fully-built MH-60R helicopters under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. FMS is a US-led process in which the Pentagon acts as an agent for the buyer (the Indian Navy) and negotiates prices and terms of supply with the US supplier (in this case, Lockheed Martin).

FMS purchases come with US government performance guarantees. In many FMS purchases, the foreign buyer manages to procure the equipment cheaper than the US military, since the Pentagon compares the price to what the US military paid for its last purchase of this equipment.

Along with FMS’ purchase of 24 Romeos, a tender is underway for the construction of another 99 of these helicopters in India via the Strategic Partner (SP) route.

Sikorsky is considered one of the most accomplished helicopter companies in the world. In 1957 he built the first helicopter to transport an American President – Dwight D Eisenhower. The helicopter of the current American president, designated “Marine One”, is a Sikorsky machine. The helicopters that flew into Abbottabad, Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden were a stealth variant of Sikorsky’s famous UH-60 Black Hawk.