American defence firm Lockheed Martin has greeted India's maritime forces on Navy Day with the first photo of the multirole MH-60 Romeo helicopter, which India is acquiring. The photo features an India-bound MH-60R with a freshly-painted Navy roundel near its tail boom.
The MH-60 Romeo is widely considered among the most advanced anti-submarine helicopters in the world and will be deployed on the navy's warships, replacing the venerable British-built Sea King which has been in service for decades.
"This #NavyDay, we are proud to share the first look of the #IndianNavy's #MH60R in all its glory. #RomeoForIndia" Lockheed Martin tweeted. Navy Day is celebrated every year on December 4 to commemorate the attack on Karachi harbour during the India-Pakistan war in 1971.
The process to buy 24 helicopters for the Indian Navy is going on. A government to government deal was signed for $905 million.
These helicopters are also designed to fire the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) developed by the Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. The NSM can engage warships at a range of 185 km. The original package India was looking at included the provision of NSM training missiles, a precursor to a potential deal for the missile system.
For several years, the Indian Navy has been operating advanced warships including the made-in-India Kolkata Class destroyers without any modern anti-submarine helicopters on board, the lack of which has been considered a glaring operational deficiency at a time when China has markedly stepped up its presence in the Indian Ocean Region by operating a full-scale base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
The first MH-60R helicopters from the US will arrive next year.