New Delhi: India is soon to issue a request for proposal (RFP) to acquire more than 75 Naval Multi-role Helicopters (NMRH) for it’s Navy. The Indian Navy is looking for a helicopter that can be assigned to missions like- anti surface warfare, ASW, logistics, intelligence, search and rescue, amphibious, commando operations and number of other normal helicopter missions.
This will be a global and largest tender for multi-role helicopters. The American giant Lockheed Martin, last year had responded to the RFI issued by the Indian Navy. LM is pitching two variants of its helicopters-MH-60 Romeo and MH-60 Sierra against the tender. Indian Navy, a major player in the Indian Ocean Region, plans to acquire the choppers at an estimated cost of over 4 billion USD (Rs.20,000 crores) for the modernization of its aviation wing.
This is apart from the tender already issued for the acquisition of 16 multi-role helicopters in which European NH-90 and American Sikorsky S-70 are contending for the deal worth 1 billion USD. These helicopters will replace the decades old Sea King helicopters in the fleet of the navy.
Recently, in an exclusive and detailed interview with BDK, Lockheed Martin's Vice President for Ship and Aviation Systems George Barton explained how MH-60R and the MH-60S helicopters are complimentary to each other and how they can provide a solution to the Indian Navy’s NMRH requirements.
BDK: When do you expect the RFP for the Indian Navy’s NMRH program to acquire some 75 multi-role chopper be out? What solutions do you offer to the Indian Navy’s requirements?
|Lockheed Martin's MH-60R
GB: We are hopeful that the RFP will be out pretty soon. Because there is potential for so many aircraft, we are offering two aircraft- MH-60 Romeo and MH-60 Sierra as solution to Indian Navy’s requirements. These two are very complementary to each other and similar. MH-60Romeo’s primary mission is ASW and anti-surface warfare. It does other missions also. It could be a command platform. The primary missions of MH-60 Sierra include- logistics, mine-counter measures and anti-surface warfare.
BDK: How these two choppers are complementary and similar and why should one buy two types of choppers when they are similar, as you said?
GB: Let me explain. If you buy the two aircraft together, you can have a lot more flexibility. They are multi-role and can be deployed for various missions. The MH-60 R and S are United States Navy's premier platforms for Naval Intelligence (NI) surface warfare, submarine warfare and logistics. The cockpit is exactly same, the architecture and software are the same. What happens when the crew starts the aircraft, the aircraft recognizes that it's a Romeo and as in the case- the ASW capability, the Hellfire capability, all the different weapons systems- electronics, surveillance measures, radar-everything come up and recognizes that it's a Romeo. The crew interfaces exactly the same way in both the aircraft. The same is with the Sierra. If you are getting ready to fire a Hellfire missile from a Romeo or a Sierra, it’s exactly the same, same logistics and a significant cost savings.
The advantages that the MH-60Romeo and MH-60Sierra we are offering are that, these are proven aircraft operating at sea today with high reliability. A large number of aircraft helps to reduce the cost logistically for training and maintenance.
BDK: In India, it’s a lengthy process to complete before you get a big ticket deal. By the time a deal is signed, technology is changed. How are you going to address this issue?
GB: We will offer the aircraft that meets the current requirements of the Indian Navy and will also make Indian Navy aware about the development program that will take place in the next few years. For example, if a platform is to be delivered to a customer in 2013, we are aware, what systems will be available in 2013. In the case of the Indian Navy, if their requirement is for 2015, we know what will happen to the aircraft then and we will make them aware about this.
MH-60R was our very robust development program. The aircraft was fielded after 10 years of development and $1 billion of US investment just to build the first couple of aircraft. Those aircraft were fielded in 2006. Since then we have delivered 123 more. There have been three major upgrades to both the aircraft. Every year the United States Navy has a program that they develop and we work on to increase the reliability and mission effectiveness. The U.S. Navy today has 123 MH-60R and 220 MH-60S.
BDK: Which are the other countries who operate these helicopters?
GB: We won the first international competition for the Royal Australian Navy for 24 MH-60R helicopters. The first helicopter will be delivered in 2013 to Royal Australian Navy. We have delivered a few MH-60S to Thailand in November.
|C-130 J Super Hercules aircraft
BDK: Any progress on the MRMR for the IN and also for the Coast Guard?
GB: Yes, there are two projects coming up, the Indian Navy’s MRMR and the Coast Guard’s maritime surveillance projects Both need nine aircraft each and we will bring C-130 J for these projects. These aircraft are already with the Indian Air Force and the user is very happy with our platform. But for these two projects, there will be different requirements. It’s a flexible aircraft.
Complementary capabilities of MH-60R/S helicopters
The MH-60R, equipped by Lockheed Martin with the latest and most advanced mission systems and sensors, and the MH-60S, which shares an advanced Common Cockpit Suite with its counterpart, fulfill numerous multi-mission roles including:
• Anti-submarine warfare
• Anti-surface warfare
• Special Ops/Commando
• Amphibious Assault
• Troop Carrier
• Electronic intelligence
• Search and rescue
• External Cargo
• Communications Duties
The MH-60R/S are low-risk: technically, programmatically and financially. These aircraft have been successfully deployed numerous times with the U.S. Navy, so their operational prowess is proven.
The programs are stable and fully funded and the U.S. Navy has plans for continued upgrades and modernization to maintain the aircraft’s position at the forefront of technology. Proven training and maintenance models exist so the program has predictable costs.
The MH-60R/S are the culmination of 30 years of lessons learned developing, delivering, operating and maintaining maritime helicopters for the U.S. Navy. Lockheed Martin spent ten years perfecting the art of turning a Seahawk into a “Romeo” aircraft, equipping it with the latest sensors and systems and streamlining integration so the entire aircraft is perfectly calibrated.
The Sierra is equally integrated and incorporates all of the flight control interfaces and total aircraft commonality that brings economies to the life cycle support of each aircraft. The beauty of integrated mission systems is that they display a picture of the surface and subsurface domains, prioritize the data into actionable knowledge, and allow the crew to spend less time interpreting data and more time prosecuting the target.