Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 28 March 2021
Indo- Pacific is turning into hotspot maritime domain for Indian Navy to carry out swift, precise and lethal operations. Upcoming MH-60 Romeo helicopters would be a force multiplier that can neutralise any Chinese attempts to vitiate the peaceful security atmosphere in Indo- Pacific particularly Indian Ocean. MH-60R delivery will be the first major defence equipment delivery post signing of all three foundational agreements namely LEMOA, COMCASA and BEKA with the United States of America. In this story, I have covered topics like contract and delivery of MH-60 Romeo, Navies operating Romeo, Operational Capabilities of Romeo, MH-60 Make In India contributions, Weapon Systems onboard MH-60 Romeo Helicopter, Romeo’s Specifications, Communication System of Romeo Helicopter, MH-60 Cabin, Countermeasures and sensors onboard MH-60 Romeo, Survivability and engine of MH-60 Romeo helicopter.
Contract And Delivery of MH-60 Romeo:
The delivery of the first batch of mult-role helicopter would begin sometime in mid of year 2021. India has bought 24 MH-60 from Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company under buy (global) category through Foreign Military Sales via US Navy. The contract was signed last year on 25th February.
The US Navy has leveraged three aircraft from their inventory of brand new aircraft that have never been introduced into the fleet – in order to provide them to the Indian Navy so Indian Navy can begin training on a more accelerated basis than might normally be possible. This shows the growing defence and security relations between the two democracies.
The MH-60 R built by Lockheed Martin company Sikorsky are a replacement for Sea Sing 42/ 42A Helicopters already decommissioned in 1990s. The delivery of the helicopters comes at a time when the Indo Pacific particularly the Indian Ocean Region is witnessing increasing security threat due to proliferation of Chinese submarines. This was even highlighted by recent visit of US Secretary of Defense, Llyod James Austin. The multi-role helicopter is a perfect fit for anti-submarine warfare and can operate from frontline ships and aircraft carriers providing them the critical attributes of flexibility of operation, enhanced surveillance and attacking capability.
Navies Operating MH-60 Romeo:
Lockheed Martin told your channel National Defence that with more than 300 helicopters operating across navies worldwide and newly selected as the Indian Navy’s Multi-Role Helicopter, the MH-60R is the world’s most advanced naval helicopter available today. The MH-60R (ROMEO) brings unmatched capabilities across the spectrum of naval warfare. The helicopter is able to deploy aboard any air-capable frigate, destroyer, cruiser, fast combat su pport ship, amphibious assault ship, Littoral combat ship or aircraft carrier. The most significant modifications are the folding main rotor and a hinged tail to reduce its footprint aboard ships. Lockheed Martin recently revealed the first look of Indian MH-60R helicopter on Dec 3, 2020, Indian Navy Day. US Navy plans to fly the aircraft through 2040. The Royal Australian Navy, Royal Danish Air Force, and Royal Saudi Naval Forces fly the MH-60 aircraft as well.
Operational Capabilities of MH-60 Romeo:
As the world’s most advanced maritime security helicopter, the MH-60R has unmatched multi-mission capabilities: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) / Anti-Surface (ASuW); Special Operations / Search & Rescue (SAR); Utility /Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP); and Command and Control (C2). The aircraft’s fully integrated mission system also builds complete situational awareness and actionable knowledge, enabling target engagement both close-in and over-the-horizon. The helicopter also has unrivalled Anti-Submarine Warfare benefits that includes nearly 1.5 times longer mission endurance time, larger search areas and greater threat detection capabilities. Along with higher availability rates, ease of maintenance activities and extremely less expensive operating costs, the MH-60R brings advanced and immediate advantages to the Indian Navy.
MH-60 Romeo Contribution To Make In India:
The acquisition of MH-60R provides Indian Navy with a key capability and effectively contributes to the Make in India initiative. Lockheed Martin says that they have met companies from across India at their virtual India Suppliers Conference conducted in July 2020 to learn more about India’s defence industrial capabilities and to seek opportunities for Indian companies to participate in Lockheed Martin’s global supply chains. Many of the companies are already suppliers into their global supply chain and Tata-LM joint ventures. This event was a critical first step to identify potential long-lasting business relationships and resulted in follow-on engagements between Lockheed Martin and certain Indian companies.
The helicopter’s capability of prolonged maritime operations and seamless integration with the P8i and ships at sea makes it a ‘Force Multiplier’.
Weapon Systems onboard MH-60 Romeo:
Undisclosed officially, For anti-surface warfare missions, the helicopter can be equipped with a range of weapons on the four weapons stations, including Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire anti-surface missiles. BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System guided rockets and Mk54 torpedoes and crew-served guns may also come fitted with MH-60 Romeo.
For anti-submarine warfare, the MH-60R can carry up to three ATK mk50 or mk46 active / passive lightweight torpedoes. A pintle-mounted 7.62mm machine gun can be fitted for self-defence.
The AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low-Frequency Sonar designed, developed and manufactured by the defence and aerospace giant Raytheon Technologies, the AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low Frequency is the primary undersea warfare sensor for the MH-60R helicopters manufactured by Lockheed. The AN/AQS-22 is the only in-service dipping sonar with the multi-frequency operation. This capability enables the AN/AQS-22 to adapt its performance to varying environmental conditions. With a rapid search rate, the AN/AQS-22 identifies and neutralizes threats sooner, enabling it to cover a larger area. The AN/AQS-22 also permits a longer detection range over a wider area, reducing the number of helicopters required to perform active anti-submarine warfare (ASW) screening.
The helicopter is equipped for a range of missions, including anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), search-and-rescue (SAR), naval gunfire support (NGFS), surveillance, communications relay, logistics support and personnel transfer, and vertical replenishment (VERTREP). The helicopter is fitted with a 2,721.55kg or 6,000 lb cargo hook for vertical replenishment missions. Lockheed Martin, Owego, is the mission system’s integrator.
MH-60 Romeo Specifications:
If we talk about Romeo’s cockpit, The MH-60 helicopter is fitted with dual controls and accommodates a pilot, co-pilot, and tactical mission officer. The sensor operator station is installed in the cabin.
MH-60R shares the same MH-60 multi-function digital glass cockpit as the MH-60S helicopter. The MH-60 common cockpit has been designed and supplied by the Owego Helo Systems division of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration at Owego New York.
The fully integrated glass cockpit is equipped with four 8in × 10in (20.3cm × 25.4cm) full-colour multi-function mission and flight displays that are night-vision goggle-compatible and sunlight-readable. The pilots and aircrew have common programmable keysets, a mass memory unit, mission and flight management computers, and MH-60R dedicated operational software.
Communication System on board MH-60 Romeo:
The navigation suite includes a Northrop Grumman (Litton) LN-100G dual embedded global positioning system and inertial navigation system. Telephonics Corp supplies the communication management system.
The helicopter is equipped with a fully digital communications suite, with Link 16, ARC-210 radios for voice, UHF / VHF and satellite communications and a Harris Hawklink Ku-band datalink.
MH-60 Romeo Cabin:
The MH-60 Romeo helicopter features a spacious and comfortable cabin with increased leg space for passengers. The cabin can accommodate three or four flight crew and five passengers. The length of the cabin is 3.2m, while the height and width are 1.3m and 1.8m respectively. The cabin area and volume of the helicopter are 6m² and 8.5m³, respectively.
Countermeasures and sensors of MH-60 Romeo helicopter:
The helicopter is fitted with a Lockheed Martin AN/ALQ-210 electronic support measures system (ESM). Electronic warfare systems include the ATK AN/AAR-47 missile warner, laser warning system, BAE Systems AN / ALQ-144 infrared jammer and AN / ALE-39 chaff and flare decoy dispenser.
For anti-submarine warfare missions, the helicopter is equipped with a sonobuoy launcher and a Ra ytheon AN / AQS-22 advanced airborne low-frequency (ALFS) dipping sonar.
The MH-60R is fitted with the Raytheon AN / AAS-44 detecting / tracking system, which includes a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and laser rangefinder.
The helicopter’s radar is the Telephonics AN / APS-147 multi-mode radar, which has inverse synthetic aperture (ISAR) imaging and periscope and small target detection capabilities. Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract in July 2008 to develop a new radar system named AN / APS-153 radar, with automatic radar periscope detection and discrimination (ARPDD) capability.
Survivability of MH-60 Romeo:
If we talk about survivability of Romeo, the MH-60R is constructed with tolerance to small arms fire and medium-calibre high-explosive projectiles. The flight controls have dual-redundancy and ballistically hardened flight controls. The fuel tank is self-sealing. The helicopter is fitted with energy-absorbing landing gear and load-limiting crew seats.
The upper controls and hub are ballistically tolerant and the rotor blades are tolerant against 23mm rounds. The tail rotor has redundant fail-safe controls. The helicopter’s high-mass components are retained within the frame in the event of a 20/20/10G impact crash.
The modular transmission system is fitted with fail safe lubrication. The hydraulics and electrical systems are triple-redundant.
MH-60 Romeo Engine:
The helicopter is powered by two General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines rated at 1,425kW. The internal self-sealing fuel tanks have a capacity of 2,230l.
MH-60R can climb at a rate of 8.38m/s. The maximum and cruise speed of the helicopter are 267km/h and 168km/h respectively, while the range is 834km. The service ceiling of the helicopter is 3,438m. The helicopter weighs around 6,895kg and has a maximum take-off weight of 10,659kg.
In August 2017, the Indian Navy floated request-for-information for 123 naval multi-role helicopters and 111 naval utility helicopters. In view of this MH-60 Romeo’s capabilities are unmatched and need of the hour given the strategic and tactical requirements of India Navy. To give what Navy requires is equally important to maintain strategic balance in Indian Ocean Region and in the national interest.