The only defence deal which is expected to be finalised with the US during the forthcoming visit of the US President Donald Trump is the 24 MH-60R Seahawk maritime helicopters from the US-based Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin deal which is approximately worth $2.1 billion. With China's growing presence in the Indian Ocean, these helicopters will help in playing a very critical role in Indian Navy's anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations
The Trump administration which considers India as a major partner gave its approval for selling these helicopters to the Indian Navy in May 2019. These fourth-generation MH-60Rs `Romeos' helicopters will come to the Indian Navy loaded with sensors, torpedoes and missiles which can be used for anti-submarine warfare. The helicopters will come through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route and is also expected to be having a 30 per cent offset clause as well.
Highly placed sources have confirmed the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is likely to give its approval soon so that it can be announced during the visit. The talks for these helicopters with the Indian side were spearheaded by Dr Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin and have played the most important role in the growing India-US bilateral defence trade.
From the time the deal is inked, within five years the 24 helicopters are expected to be delivered to replace the British Sea King helicopters. In 2018, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had given approval for the MH-60Rs `Romeos' through the FMS route from the US.
Financial Express Online was the first to report that the package will also include related anti-submarine warfare equipment and weapons, anti-surface warfare weapons, and air-to-ground weapons, as well as spares, training, and support.
The anti-submarine helicopter deal was also discussed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the US President Donald Trump had met in the US last year. It was also on the table for discussions during the second 2+2 India-US Ministerial Dialogue last December.
Will AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Army be announced?
Sources have said that the six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters which are meant for the Indian Army may not be approved by the time the visit happens. The deal which is a follow on order worth approximately $ 930 million, if it gets approved by the CCS, will also be through the FMS route. These are in addition to the already ordered 22 helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
These helicopters are from another US aerospace giant Boeing Company and are expected to have critical components made in India.
In an earlier interaction Michael M Koch, Vice President, India, Defense, Space & Security, had indicated that besides the fuselage, other additional parts of the helicopters will be made locally in India.
The Boeing Company already has a joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. (TASL) — Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited (TBAL) established in 2016 which has played a very important role in the manufacturing of fuselages for the AH-64 Apache.
As per the contract signed with Boeing, all the 22 helicopters for the IAF are expected to be handed over and replace the Russian MI25/35 gunships.
Drones for the three services
Sources have indicated that the UAVs for the Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force have yet to be approved by the Defence Acquisition Council before it goes to the CCS.
The request from the three forces for ten each has already been approved by the Trump administration and will probably find a mention in the joint statement which will be issued at the end of the two-day visit of the US leader.
During various discussions between the two sides requirement for ten each drones for the three services has been discussed. Raytheon's National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II)
Offered by the US to India as a competition to the Russian S-400 Triumf advanced air defence missile system of Russia is also not expected to be inked. The American system has the capability to intercept ballistic missiles at high altitude.