US and India signs $3.6 billion MH-60R and Apache Helicopters deal

US President Donald Trump landed in Ahmedabad on his maiden visit to India on Monday. President Trump confirmed on Tuesday that the US and India signed a deal worth over $3.6 billion state-of-the-art military Apache helicopters, MH-60R and other equipment to the Indian armed forces.

MH-60 Apache
A collage, from left, showing the MH-60R and the AH-64E Apache (Boeing)

The sale of 24 MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters for $2.6 billion is announced in the joint statement between Trump and Modi after the delegation-level talks in Hyderabad House in Delhi.

Last week, the Union cabinet had given its go-ahead to the naval helicopter purchase, so that the deal is confirmed during the Trump-Modi talks. Besides 24 MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters, the sale of six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Indian Army is also set to be announced in the talks.

 The deals were for 24 Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R multirole naval helicopters for the Indian Navy (IN) worth a total of USD2.6 billion, and for six Boeing ‘AH-64E(I)’ Apache Guardian attack helicopters for India’s Army Aviation Corps (AAC) worth a total of about $1 billion.

The 24 MH-60 helicopters, built by Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Aircraft, will be procured under the ‘government-to-government’ route. The MH-60 is the US Navy’s primary anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopter and is also capable of search and rescue and supply missions. These helicopters will replace 15 Sea King anti-submarine warfare helicopters de-inducted from service in 1991 and one Sea King 42B MRH, lost in an accident. The current MRHs in service—Sea King 42Bs—were inducted in the 1980s when the Indian Navy got its now decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Viraat.

The deal for six Apache attack helicopters worth $1 billion has also been finalised by the government. Called ‘flying tanks’, the Apache attack helicopters will be a major component in tank battles. Apache helicopters are capable of detecting 256 moving targets and engaging them. The Apache, a twin-engined helicopter, is operated by two pilots.

The DCS part of the AAC’s Apache deal includes the platform, logistics support, spares, and after-sales service.

The Foreign Military Sale (FMS) portion is comprised of the helicopters’ General Electric T700-701D turboshaft engines, electro-optical sensors, radars, weapon systems – including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra-70 rockets – as well as training and platform certification.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had signed a similar ‘hybrid’ deal for 22 Apaches in September 2017 for about USD2.02 billion. By late 2019 the service had inducted eight of these platforms.

Besides helicopters, crucial progress has also been made in the key foundation agreement Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which will enable India to obtain cutting-edge weapons and communications systems from the US. It will allow the Indian military to use US expertise on geospatial intelligence for enhanced military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons including ballistic missiles and drones.

India has already signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). However, it is yet to sign the third, BECA.

More recently, the Industrial Security Agreement (ISA) was signed during the 2+2 Dialogue, which facilitates close technology transfer with Indian private industry.

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