Lockheed Martin Eyes Naval Helicopter Contest in India

 - June 29, 2012, 12:10 PM
Lockheed Martin may bid the Sikorsky MH-60R for the Indian requirement for 75 multi-role helicopters. (Photo: Sikorsky)

Lockheed Martin is eyeing an Indian request for proposals (RFP) for around 75 naval multi-role helicopters (NMRH) that is expected to be released late summer. The new rotorcraft would complement the Indian navy’s existing fleet of Westland Sea King 42 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.

Lockheed would bid the MH-60R “Romeo,” the Sikorsky-built helicopter that it modifies extensively for service with the U.S. Navy. The Eurocopter NH-90 is another possible contender.

“We are very interested in the program, which will be the largest in the world,” Tom Kane, Lockheed Martin director of helicopter programs, told AIN. “We’re extremely competitive today and have established a training curriculum. We can ramp up production by 15 to 20 a year, in addition to the 24 we build every year for the U.S Navy.” Sikorsky, part of United Technologies, and Lockheed Martin, the mission-systems integrator, are under a five-year contract to deliver 139 Romeos through 2013 to the U.S. Navy, which is expected to buy 300 of the helicopters through 2018.

The Indian request for information (RFI) issued last year indicated the helicopter could be assigned to missions related to anti-surface warfare, logistics, intelligence, search and rescue, amphibious, commando operations and various other missions. The navy needs the multirole helicopters for an expansion in its area of responsibility, which includes patrolling from the Gulf of Aden to the Malacca Straits. The RFI called for helicopters with a maximum all-up weight of between nine and 12.5 tons.

Expected to serve for 30 years, the NMRH needs to have the capacity for 10-percent weight growth throughout its service life without impairing performance. The helicopters must also be able to fit in shipboard hangars with a length of 15.5 meters (50.8 feet), width of 5.5 meters (18 feet) and a height of 5.3 meters (17.4 feet).

A 30-percent offsets clause is mandatory and likely to cause heartburn as India’s offset policy continues to evolve and interpretations of these requirements remain loose. Transfer of technology of sensitive equipment remains an intellectual property-rights issue that India needs to deal with through the formation of an overall body that implements and audits the import of technology.


The MH-60R is not in the current tender for 16 MRH aircraft for the Indian navy. The S-70B is & should win that competition. My opinion (having worked on the S-70B for over 10 years) is Indian Navy will be happy with that choice and it would then make no sense to procure another aircraft for the obvious reasons (training, maintenance, logistics, etc.) for the follow-on tender for an additional 75 aircraft. The S-70B can also be configured in a utility version to offer the same capabilities as the MH-60S. Many folks look at Lockheed as the best in ASW & & ASuW mission system design and integration. I can tell you for custom configurations of this type that will be required for this aircraft, Sikorsky and the S-70B are the best there is.

India has always resisted buying American hardware as much as possible. This is primarily because of American arms regulations that call for "inspections", which the Indian military and security establishment loath. Second, is past experience with American politics that withholds and denies essential spares and parts in times of crisis. Indian military officials don't want to be stuck with equipment that they can't use if they are called to make war when American doesn't approve. Lastly, there is also some concern that American equipment could be "remotely compromised" should the Americans decide to do so.
These reasons all stem from the same problem - the unreliability of American foreign policy and its administration. American equipment is only considered when the alternatives are non-existent or so inferior that they do not satisfy military needs.

Show comments (2)