Navy Finally Ups the Ante

The Indian Navy intends to procure 123 naval multi-role helicopters and 111 armed light naval utility helicopters.

Aditya Kakkar

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has approved the procurement of 111 utility helicopters for the Indian Navy under the strategic partnership model which aims to localise manufacturing and indigenise the defence industry.

Navy Finally Ups the Ante

The Indian Navy intends to procure 123 naval multi-role helicopters (NMRHs) with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, and 111 armed light naval utility helicopters (NUHs). The total value of the two contracts is estimated at over USD10 billion and the Request for Information (RFI) has been sent to six original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

“The present government has taken a series of significant policy initiatives, including promulgation of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 which gives highest priority to indigenous design and manufacture of defence equipment, introduction of strategic partnership model, liberalisation of foreign direct investment (FDI) norms and providing a level-playing to private industry,” the defence minister had said.

On October 31, the DAC had accorded the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for the 111 NUHs. 16 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 government will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) that will include detailed technical specifications for the helicopters, required offset obligations, and mandated technology.

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 (if the ban on the company is lifted). The NUH is expected to replace the navy’s ageing fleet of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.

The Indian Navy currently operates 11 Kamov-28 and 17 Sea King ASW helicopters. The majority of the helicopters, however, are not operational. The Indian Navy has four flyable Kamov Ka-28 helicopters, whereas the serviceability rate of the Sea Kings was below 30 per cent, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).


The Naval Multi-Role Helicopters:

  • The twin-engine helicopter will have two variants: NMRH (multi-role) and NMRH (special operations).
  • The multi-role chopper will be used for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, electronic intelligence and casualty evacuation.
  • The special operations variant will perform roles including transporting commandos, anti-piracy operations, combat search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and logistics and communication duties.
  • The 12.5-tonne helicopters, capable of operating from ships and ashore, will have wheeled landing gear, dual flying controls and blade fold capability.
  • In line with the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, the vendors have been asked to maximise the indigenous content of the NMRH. The navy has stipulated it should not be less than 40 per cent.
  • The helicopter must be capable of night missions.
  • The navy has also asked manufacturers if it is possible to install weapons of its choice in lieu of those proposed by them. It wants two types of anti-ship missiles: Long-range fire and forget missile with 70-km range and short-range missile with a range of 25 km.
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