First Indian batch of crew members complete training to fly “Romeo” naval chopper - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 8 April 2022

First Indian batch of crew members complete training to fly “Romeo” naval chopper

10-month training ended in US on April 1; Sikorsky to supply 24 MH-60R naval helicopters, 99 more to be made in India


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 9th April 22


In an important first step towards addressing gaping combat capability shortfalls in its capital warships, the Indian Navy’s first batch of aircrew of its newly acquired MH 60R “Romeo” helicopter completed their training at the US Navy base in San Diego, on April 1. 


The 10-month long course included conversion training and other advanced qualifications on the versatile and lethal MH 60R helicopter – which the navy has nicknamed the “Romeo”. The Indian pilots flew extensively from the US Navy’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron – 41 and achieved day and night deck landing qualification on board a US Navy destroyer. 


These crewmembers will be the pioneers for inducting the “Romeo” into the Indian Navy, where it will add teeth to its capital warships – aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. 

Flying from the warships’ helicopter decks, the MH 60Rs will provide them added offensive power, especially in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), combat search and rescue (CSAR), vertical replenishment (VERTREP) and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). The Romeo is also designed to fly marine commandoes (MARCOs) into enemy territory for commando missions.


The Indian Navy has contracted for 24 Seahawks in a government-to-government deal for $2.12 billion. The first deliveries have already been made by Sikorsky Helicopters, which is a subsidiary of the world’s largest aerospace and defence firm, Lockheed Martin.


Successive Indian Navy chiefs have identified the shortage of ship-borne, multi-role helicopters (MRHs) as one of the navy’s most worrisome operational deficits. Presently, the navy’s warships make do with a handful of decades-old Seaking Mark 42B/C helicopters. As the Seakings progressively retired, helicopter hangars on Indian warships emptied, severely reducing their combat capability.


Given this shortfall, the navy contracted for 24 MH-60R choppers in fully-built condition under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. FMS is a US-led process in which the Pentagon acts as an agent of the buyer (the Indian Navy), and negotiates price and supply terms with the US vendor (in this case, Lockheed Martin).


FMS procurements come with US government guarantees on performance. In many FMS purchases, the foreign buyer manages to procure the equipment cheaper than US military, since the Pentagon benchmarks the price to what the US military paid for its last procurement of that equipment.


Alongside the FMS purchase of 24 Romeos, tendering is under way for building another 99 of these helicopters in India through the Strategic Partner (SP) route. 


Sikorsky is regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished helicopter firms. In 1957, it built the first helicopter to carry a US president – Dwight D Eisenhower. The current US president’s helicopter, designated “Marine One”, is a Sikorsky machine. The helicopters that flew into Abbottabad, Pakistan, to kill Osama bin Laden were a stealth variant of Sikorsky’s famed UH-60 Black Hawk.

1 comment:

  1. # all the helicopters in USofA military operation eagle claw were sikorsky, RH-53D. two hours into the operation one had a cracked rotor. another had electrical problems that disabled its flight instruments and had to return to base. a third, a malfunctioning secondary hydraulic system leaving only one hydraulic system to control the aircraft. a fourth crashed into a C-130 hercules and the resulting fireball marteared eight bravehearts. the remaining four helicopters were abandoned.


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