The United State Department has approved the sale of 24 MH-60R Romeo helicopters useful for multiple missions including anti-submarine ops to India at an estimated price of $2.6 billion.

Under Barack Obama’s presidency, India was granted the Major Defence Partner (MDP) designation in 2016, followed by Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status allowing India to access American armours and defence technologies equivalent to any of the US’ “closest allies”. With an eye on the rising concern in South Asian peninsula with China, the India and the US are strategically trying to recur their ties and have emerged as world’s two largest democracies largely overlapping their defence interests in past decade.

As a part of the strengthening defence interests, the U.S Department of State approved selling the 24 MH-60R multi-mission anti-submarine helicopters, nicknamed as Romeo helicopters to India, on Tuesday. The estimated $2.6 billion Romeo Seahawk helicopter deal falls under the US’ Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program administered by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), and the agency has submitted its notification to the US Congress to forward the deal.

The Romeo helicopters manufactured by American defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin are designed to hunt down submarines and perform anti-surface warfare missions such at knocking out ships and search-and-rescue operations at sea-surface level. As per DSCA, the acquisition of Romeo helicopters will also let India perform “secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay”.

The US Department called India as a “major defensive partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region”. The US also believes that the sale of the advanced helicopters will “enhance India’s capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence”. This comes in heels with India’s rising tension with Pakistan and China, however, the multi-billion deal can potentially be seen as an “alteration in basic military balance” in the region.