The U.S. State Department approved the possible sale of 24 Sikorsky MH-60R multi-mission helicopters to India, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a release.
In a quick reply to an Indian request submitted late last year, the State Department said it was informing the U.S. Congress as legally required that it was giving the green light for India to buy the 24 helicopters worth a total of $2.6 billion.
Nicknamed the Romeo, the MH-60R Seahawk multi-role helicopters manufactured by Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky are designed for hunting submarines as well as knocking out ships and conducting search-and-rescue operations at sea.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defensive partner,” the Tuesday, April 2 DSCA release said.
It called India “a major defensive partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.”
The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems.
In addition to the helicopters, India has requested 10 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 38 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) rockets, 30 MK 54 torpedoes, and other weapons, training missiles and equipment, the DSCA said.
The Romeos would replenish India’s aging fleet of British-made Sea King helicopters.
The purchase of 24 naval multi-role helicopters capable of anti-submarine warfare for a reported $1.9 billion at the time was approved India’s Defence Acquisition Council last August, part of a wider $6.6 billion plan that included the purchase another 111 utility helicopters for the Indian Navy.
India, which had estranged relations with the United States since the Cold War, has emerged as one of its leading defense partner with the interests of the world’s two largest democracies largely overlapping amid their concerns over a rising China and Islamist extremism.
India has been alarmed by China’s growing interest in the Indian Ocean as it becomes a global naval power.
In a strategy dubbed by Indian and U.S. observers as the “string of pearls,” China has made use of a growing number of naval bases in the Indian Ocean, most notably the Gwadar port it is developing in India’s historic rival Pakistan.
Indian naval planners have responded with a doctrine to ensure freedom of movement throughout the Indian Ocean, stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca.
With reporting from AFP