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Indian Navy begins induction of Seahawk helicopters to increase fire power in the Indo-Pacific

MH-60R Seahawks fly India and US flags at the induction ceremony held at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego on Friday (Image courtesy: Twitter/@flynavy)

In yet another move to increase fire power in the Indo-Pacific region, the Indian Navy has inducted two US-made Sehawk multirole helicopters–as part of a 24-chopper deal. The two helicopters were inducted in the navy during a ceremony at San Diego on Friday.

An all-weather helicopter manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corporation, the MH-60R is designed to support multiple missions. Its induction will also help the Indian Navy replace its aging fleet of anti-submarine Sea King helicopters which were first acquired from British Westland Helicopters Limited back in the early 1970s.

The induction of the MH-60Rs is meant to bolster Indian naval capability in the Indo-Pacific region–a vast area in the Indian and Pacific Oceans which are linked by the Malacca Straits, a lynchpin of international trade. India, US, Japan and Australia are part of the Indo-Pacific Quad, whose purpose is to secure uninterrupted trade and commerce in the region, where China is flaunting its military muscle.

The ceremony for the formal transfer of the first two helicopters from US Navy to Indian Navy was held at San Diego's Naval Air Station North Island with Taranjit Singh Sandhu (Indian Ambassador to the USA), Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell (Commander Naval Air Forces, US Navy) and Vice Admiral Ravneet Singh (Deputy Chief of the Naval Staf, Indian Navy) in attendance.

Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, Commander Naval Air Forces, US Navy and Vice Admiral Ravneet Singh, the  Deputy Chief of the Naval Staf, Indian Navy exchange documents during the MH-60R Seahawks induction ceremony held at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego on Friday (Image courtesy: Twitter/@flynavy)

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com earlier, Indian Navy's Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar had visited San Diego late last month where he had met not only Commander of the US Pacific Fleet but also interacted with the Indian Navy's MH-60R helicopter induction crew, currently undergoing training at the US Navy's Naval Base in Coronado.

It was in 2019 that the Donald Trump administration had cleared the Foreign Military Sale to India of 24 MH-60R Multi-Mission helicopters for an estimated cost of $2.6 billion.

From Seaking to Seahawk and future acquisitions

According to Indian Navy, the induction of MH-60R Seahawk Multi Role Helicopters – the second batch of which is expected to be delivered at the end of this year – would enhance its three dimensional capabilities. It will also be modified with several 'India Unique Equipment' and weapons.

Entry of the new-age equipment with cutting edge technology would also mean systematic withdrawal of the multi-role Sea King helicopter which has rendered yeoman service to the nation since 1971.

US Navy's Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 which flies the MH-60R Seahawk lists it as an aircraft that elevates tactical maritime mission capability to a new level by far surpassing previous fleet capability.

The MH-60R is designed to operate from littoral combat ships, frigates, destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers to provide Command Control and Communications, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Surface Warfare (SUW), Electronic Warfare (EW), Mobility (MOB) and Search and Rescue (SAR).

While approving its sale, the US government had said that it will improve the security of 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.

Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Indian Ambassador to the USA, along with other officials at the  MH-60R Seahawks induction ceremony held at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego on Friday (Image courtesy: Twitter/@SandhuTaranjitS)

"The proposed sale will provide India the capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay.  India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. India will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces," stated the US State Department.

Emphasizing that increased US-India military interoperability will help in protecting "shared security interests" in the Indo-Pacific region, Washington had also cleared the sale of Apache helicopters ($796 million) and the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure ($189 million) to India.

New Delhi was also the first non-treaty partner to be offered a Missile Technology Control Regime Category-1 Unmanned Aerial System – the Sea Guardian UAS manufactured by General Atomics.

The US State Department's Political-Military Affairs (PM) Bureau also continues to support advocacy for the Lockheed Martin F-21 and Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15EX Eagle as part of India's future fighter aircraft acquisitions.