The govt has also approved the purchase of 150 artillery guns & 24 multi-role helicopters for the navy.
New Delhi: India opened up a market for naval helicopters Saturday and announced a new policy that will involve manufacturing them with a private sector partner.
The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave the go ahead to buy 111 helicopters for the Indian Navy. It also pushed the button on a “strategic partnership” model.
The model envisages that a foreign firm will tie up with an Indian company to manufacture the helicopters.
Helicopters are a desperate need for the Indian Navy. During flood relief and rescue operations in Kerala, there was a demand for the machines that the armed forces could barely afford to service.
The 111 helicopters would cost more than Rs 21,000 crore, the DAC has estimated.
The new helicopters would replace the Chetaks that the navy has been using since the 1970s. All new Indian warships have decks and hangars to house at least two helicopters each. But they mostly sail without the flying machines because there aren’t enough.
Among the competitors for the Indian navy helicopter order are Bell of the US, the Eurocopter made by a consortium of European companies, and Kamov of Russia. The DAC approval means that the government may now issue a global tender, inviting bids. There could me more competitors.
The process would take about three years before the first new helicopter lands.
The council also approved the purchase of 150 artillery guns. These guns have been made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). This would be the second purchase of artillery guns by India since it contracted the M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers from BAe Land Systems.
It also means that India is breaking its Bofors jinx. For nearly 30 years, the Indian Army has not been able to buy an artillery gun because of the stain that the Swedish company had thrown on India’s political class since Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister.,
Saturday’s DAC meeting also approved the purchase of 24 Multi-role helicopters (MRH) for the navy. These may be the Sikorsky S-90. Sikorsky is now part of the Lockheed Martin group.
The MRH is a different class of helicopters. The naval utility helicopters are light weight and are to be used mostly for ferrying. The MRH would be capable of both defensive and offensive operations, particularly anti-submarine warfare.
The Indian Navy has marked the requirement of MRHs because of Chinese submarine activity in waters around the country. In befuddling deployments, China sends submarines for “anti-piracy patrols” off the east coast of Africa.