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New Delhi, February 19, 2020
Ahead of US President Donald Trump's visit to India, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared the purchase of 24 American helicopters for the Indian Navy.
The deal to procure MH-60R Seahawk helicopters is worth $2.6 billion.
"The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) cleared the procurement of 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters for the navy," said a senior government official.
Last year, then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had approved the proposal to procure the choppers which is manufactured by the Lockheed Martin group.
The Trump administration also gave clearance after the US government rolled out a new "Buy American" plan in 2018 that had relaxed restrictions on sales, saying it would bolster the US defence industry and create jobs at home.
Sources said the deal would be carried out through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route, which is the American equivalent of the government-to-government contracts India.
The deal is likely to be inked during Trump's two-day visit to India from February 24. He would travelling to New Delhi, Agra and Ahmedabad.
The 24 helicopters would be a big boost to the Navy. The multi-role helicopters will be equipped with Hellfire missiles and torpedoes, and are meant to help the Indian Navy track submarines in the Indian Ocean, where China is expanding its presence.
Currently, P8i aircraft are being used to keep vigil on enemy submarines.
The US State Department had approved the sale of the choppers to India last year along with radars, torpedoes and 10 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
A week ago, the US State Department had also said it had approved an Indian request for an Integrated Air Defence Weapon System for an estimated cost of $1.87 billion, which would further strengthen the two countries' defence ties. The two sides are expected to move forward on the deal over the year.