Sikorsky has clinched a sale of S-70B Seahawks to the Indian Navy. (Photo: Sikorsky)
The Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk has been selected to meet the Indian Navy’s multi-role helicopter (MRH) requirement. A contract for 16 with an option for eight more is expected to be signed within eight months and will include a complete logistics support and training program. The selection was held up for two years following the controversy over India’s purchase ofAgustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters. The other shortlisted contender was theNH-90 fromNHIndustries, which is 32 percent owned by AgustaWestland.
The request for proposal mandates that deliveries begin within three years of signing the contract. The last helicopter will be delivered in 48 months from the first delivery], Arvind Walia, Sikorsky regional executive for India and South Asia, told AIN. The Black Hawk variant will conduct anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare (ASuW and ASW) missions, as well as search-and-rescue and other roles.
The Indian Navy variant will include avionics and flexible open-architecture weapons management systems that integrate advanced sonar, 360-degree search radar, modern air-to-surface missiles, and torpedoes for the ASWrole. Folding blades and tail will facilitate shipboard storage. “There is no doubt that marketing licenses will be given by the U.S. government for certain mission equipment that will require [clearance],” Walia said. Chief of Naval Staff Admiral RK Dhowan said that the Indian Ministry of Defence is accelerating the decision-making process on acquisitions. “There is a definite change in the culture,” he told AIN at a press conference.
Walia was asked about India’s refusal to sign a communications interoperability and security memorandum of agreement with the U.S., an issue that arose in connection with the Navy’s acquisition of the Boeing P-8Imaritime patrol aircraft. India installed its own protected communication systems on that aircraft, including encrypted voice, IFF, satcom and fingerprinting, provided by state-owned companies BEL, ECIL and HAL. “We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Walia with reference to the new helicopter buy.
Sikorsky said it had fielded increasingly more capable variants of the S-70B since 1984 “for navies that prefer to acquire a modern, fully integrated ASW/ASuW platform direct from the manufacturer,” a reference to thealternative MH-60R version for the U.S. Navy that is available for export via Lockheed Martin. Sikorsky said that the S-70B is now operational in six countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, operating aboard frigates and larger naval vessels. The Seahawk series(which includes the SH-60 and MH-60) has accumulated almost four million flight hours logged by more than 800 operational aircraft, the company added.