Asia Defense

India Moves Forward With Purchase of 111 Helicopters for Navy

India’s Defense Acquisition Council approved the purchase of 111 utility helicopters for the Indian Navy.

India Moves Forward With Purchase of 111 Helicopters for Navy
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/US Navy

India’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Indian Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman, has approved the procurement of 111 utility helicopters for the Indian Navy, according to local media reports.

The DAC on October 31 accorded the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for 111 armed light naval utility helicopters (NUH) for the Indian Navy under the Indian Ministry of Defense’s new strategic partnership policy.

Sixteen helicopters are expected to be procured in fly away condition from a foreign vendor, with the remaining 95 to be built in India by an Indian partner via joint ventures and technology transfers.

The Indian government will now begin the process of identifying a foreign helicopter maker and an Indian defense firm for the joint project. India will soon issue a so-called Request for Proposals (RFP) that will include detailed technical specifications for the helicopters, required offset obligations, and mandated technology, among other things.

The RFP was preceded by a Request for Information (RFI) that also included 123 naval multirole helicopters, as I reported in August:

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In detail, the Indian Navy is interested in procuring 123 naval multi-role helicopters (NMRHs) (…) with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, and 111 armed light naval utility helicopters (…) The total value of the two contracts is estimated at over $10 billion. The RFI was sent to six original equipment manufacturers.

The deadline for submitting RFIs was the middle of October.

The procurement of the helicopters for the Indian Navy  will be the first major acquisition project under new MoD’s guidelines published in June for a new strategic partnership policy under the framework of the Defense Procurement Procedure 2016. The goal is to facilitate the manufacturing of military hardware locally as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative.

A contract is not expected to be signed for several years.

The DAC has not so far approved the AON for 123 NMRHs with anti-submarine warfare capabilities. “The Indian Navy is reportedly looking for an NMRH helicopter with full anti-submarine capability, as well as anti-surface warfare capability including anti-ship missiles,” I explained in August.

“Candidates could include the NHIndustries NH 90 twin-engine helicopter, the naval Super Puma, the Mitsubishi H-60 and the Agusta Westland AW101 (if the company receives permission from the Indian government to bid).”

The Indian Navy presently operates 11 Kamov-28 and 17 Sea King ASW helicopters; however, only four of the former and around five of the latter are flyable.

Helicopters that could be selected for the NUH include the Airbus AS565 Panther light naval helicopter and a new variant of the AgustaWestland AW109 LUH.  THE NUH is expected to replace the Navy’s aging fleet of HAL Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.