Indian Navy Stands Up First MH-60R Anti-Submarine Helo Squadron

March 7, 2024 3:14 PM
Indian Navy MH-60R Sea Hawks. Indian Navy Photo

The Indian Navy activated its first MH-60R Sea Hawk squadron on Wednesday at INS Garuda in Kochi, marking an expansion in the service’s antisubmarine warfare capability.

Indian Naval Air Squadron 334 is set to operate the new American-built helicopters, which are slated to place the service’s aging Sea King fleet, which, while continually updated and refurbished, has been serving in the Indian Navy since the 1970s.

Signed in 2020, the more than $900 million deal with the U.S. included 24 Seahawks and sensors and weaponry. Notably, the list put out by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency on the sale includes Naval Strike Missile emulators and inert munitions for training. However, it is unclear if the Indian Navy will procure the Norwegian anti-ship missile.

An additional MH-60B/R variant Sea Hawk, previously operated by the U.S. Navy, was also slotted in the package under excess defense articles.

According to Janes in 2022 at least six Sea Hawks have been transferred to the Indian Navy, with three delivered to INS Garuda and the three remaining in San Diego for the training of Indian personnel by their U.S. counterparts. Based on photos released by the Indian Navy and drills at the recent Milan 2024 multinational naval exercise, at least four Seahawks are located in India at the moment.

All 24 Sea Hawks are expected to arrive in India by next year. Going forward, Seahawks in the Indian Navy are expected to serve on board the new carrier INS Vikrant (R11) and modern surface combatants, such as the P15A- and P15B-class destroyers.

The activation of INAS 334 was described by the Indian Navy in a press release as a “pivotal moment in India’s Defense modernization journey,” with its Sea Hawks further highlighted as “ideal for the Indian Navy’s maritime security needs, offering enhanced capabilities for both conventional as well as asymmetric threats.”

“The commissioning of the Sea Hawks underscores Indian Navy’s steadfast dedication to fortifying maritime security, aligning seamlessly with the Government of India’s visionary goal of ensuring Security And Growth for All in the Region,” the press release concluded.

The Indian Naval Air Arm is unique in its variety of aircraft, spanning from Russian early warning helicopters, British antisubmarine helicopters, and, in the future, French Rafale fighter jets. In recent years, the branch has been receiving more American equipment.

An Indian variant of the Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, dubbed the P-8I, has been the mainstay of the Indian Navy’s fixed-wing antisubmarine warfare capability since the retirement of its Soviet-era Tu-142s. India has also been eyeing more 31 MQ-9B SeaGuardians in a potential $3.9 billion deal with the U.S. to enhance its maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean region. New Delhi has operated two SeaGuardians under lease since 2020 following a border clash with China.

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa is a freelance defense journalist based in Washington, D.C.

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