NEW DELHI: The Indian Navy has described its purchase of 24 Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters as a “force multiplier" that will add much needed critical punch to its abilities at a time when the Indian Ocean Region is witnessing increasing security threat due to a proliferation of submarines.

The Navy, in a statement, said the contract for the 24 helicopters was signed on 25 February, the second and concluding day of US President Donald Trump’s visit to India.

Trump had in his statement to the media on Tuesday referred to the Indian acquisition and said India would sign contracts worth more than $ 3 billion for defence hardware with US companies.

The estimated cost of the Seahawk helicopter deal is $2.6 billion. The Indian army is expected to sign a pact with US aerospace company Boeing for the purchase of 6 Apache helicopters at an estimated cost of $ 800 million.

“These (Seahawk) helicopters are a replacement for the Sea King helicopters already decommissioned in the 1990s and envisaged to operate from frontline ships and aircraft carriers, providing them the critical attributes of flexibility of operation, enhanced surveillance and attacking capability," the statement said.

“The delivery of the helicopters is planned commencing early 2021 and comes at a time when the Indian Ocean Region is witnessing increasing security threat due to proliferation of submarines," it said.

The allusion was to an increasing presence of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean region that India considers its sphere of influence. In 2017, China opened its first overseas base in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, in a move seen as aimed at protecting its overseas trade routes. China has also built a port in Gwadar, in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, that looks out into the north Arabian Sea, close to India.

“The helicopters can be effectively employed for offensive and defensive roles including Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Ship Strike, Low Intensity Maritime Operations, Search and Rescue, over the horizon Network Centric Operations and Electronic Warfare," the Navy statement said.

“The helicopter’s capability of prolonged maritime operations and seamless integration with the P8i and ships at sea makes it a ‘Force Multiplier’," it said adding that the acquisition would be equipping the Navy with a key capability as well as contributing to India’s flagship Make in India initiative.

As part of the Indian Navy’s commitment to the “Make in India" initiative, US company, Lockheed Martin, which is the supplier of the helicopters, “would also be discharging offsets through transfer of technology to Indian Offset Partners for manufacture of products and services," the statement said,

“This would enable absorption of niche technology, skill development and manufacture of eligible products/ services leading to generation of employment, skilling of MSMEs and indigenous production of products for buy-back by the OEM (original equipment manufacturer)," it added.

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