MoD okays plans to buy 111 naval helicopters

Last Updated 30 July 2018, 16:42 IST

The Defence Ministry on Monday cleared “executing guidelines” to buy 111 Naval Utility Helicopters through the new “Strategic Partnership” model, which allows private companies to enter the lucrative Indian defence market in a big way.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, approved “implementation guidelines for the strategic partnership model” that aims to “build indigenous capabilities in private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon systems,” a defence ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

“Procurement of 111 Naval Utility Helicopters was taken up as a test case to see how the executing guidelines work,” said an official.

In August 2017, the Navy issued a Request for Information for the twin-engine utility helicopters to replace the obsolete Chetaks.

Five companies responded. But one of them (Leonardo, formerly Finmeccanica) is already out of the race as it is a part of Agusta Westland, tainted by the VVIP chopper scam.

Other four respondents were Eurocopter, Bell, Sikorsky (owned by Lockheed Martin) and Russian Rosonboronexport that will pitch for its Kamov helicopters.

“To convert policy into implementable directions and to kick start the process, the DAC approved platform specific guidelines for procurement of Naval Utility Helicopters. All procurements under the SP model would be executed by specially constituted Empowered Project Committees to provide focused attention and ensure timely execution,” said the spokesperson.

With the Navy steadily adding new destroyers and frigates in the fleet, the service has virtually run out of helicopters to fly from the decks. The force now depends heavily on a handful of Kamov-28 and old Sea King helicopters to defend its existing fleet of close to 140 warships.

“The amplifying guidelines (to implement the SP) lay emphasis on incentivisation of transfer of niche technology and higher indigenous content. Global majors, who in collaboration with Indian pare ready to make India a regional or global manufacturing hub for the platform will also be incentivized,” she said.

The DAC also accorded approval for the acquisition of eight Fast Patrol Vessels for the Indian Coast Guard at an approximate cost of Rs 800 crore. These vessels will be designed and manufactured through an indigenous initiative.

(Published 30 July 2018, 15:37 IST)

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