The Indian Navy has revealed an intention to procure approximately 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) and 123 Naval Multi-role Helicopters (MRH). The responses to two requests for information (RFI) documents by the Indian Ministry of Defence were due last week. The two projects are partially a restatement of earlier requirements that were never realized. They both require indigenous manufacture under Delhi’s "Make in India" requirements.
The MRH will replace the Indian Navy’s Sea Kings, and is to be procured in two versions. One will perform anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), electronic intelligence-gathering, and search and rescue (SAR). The other will be for special operations, including anti-piracy missions, combat SAR and humanitarian operations.
In December 2014, the MoD chose the Sikorsky S-70B to meet an interim ASW/ASuW requirement, but a contract was never signed, since pricing could not be agreed. But a defense official told AIN that Sikorsky was still the “natural” choice, especially since it seemed that neither Leonardo nor NH Industries (which produces the NH-90 and is part-owned by Leonardo) would be allowed to bid, following the AW101 procurement scandal. When asked by AIN whether this was indeed the case, Leonardo’s head office for helicopters in Italy did not respond. Airbus Helicopters is another likely contender.
The NUH will replace aging Cheetahs and Chetaks. A previous requirement for only 56 such helicopters was cancelled in October 2014. The new request calls for the NUH to perform SAR, medical evacuation, communications, anti-piracy missions, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The initial NUH acquisition will comprise 15 "basic" versions. The remaining 96, according to think tank Indian Defense Research Wing, are “required to have sub-surface mission capabilities, which means the whole fleet of Indian Navy’s Next Generation Naval Utility Helicopters will have torpedo-carrying capabilities.”
“The indigenous portion of the procurement is to be manufactured in India based on designs to be provided by the foreign OEM to the selected strategic partner,” said the RFI. The OEM must maximize the local content. But an analyst told AIN that government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) might still be eligible . It is in partnership with Rostec Corp for the supply of 197 Russian KA-226T helicopters to the Indian army and air force. A ship-based version of the Ka-226T has passed trials, and “nowhere does the [Indian Navy] RFI say this is meant only for the private sector,” the analyst added.
Additional reporting by Chris Pocock