Seven Indian companies have sought clarity from the ministry of defence (MoD) on issues including ‘Make In India’ and asked for extension of the request for information (RfI) till the end of this month for 100 naval utility helicopters (NUH) at an estimated value of $2 bn.
The 100 helicopters that will become part of the navy are under the ‘Buy and Make’ category of the Defence Procurement Procedure 2013, where the company will buy a foreign design that will be assembled in India by local partners. However, companies, including TATA group, Mahendra & Mahendra, Axis Aerospace, Bharat Forge, HAL and Larsen & Tubro, had written to the MoD last November seeking more details and clarity on several issues, including the ownership clause.
Sources told FE that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, which is venturing into defense and aerospace, is aiming to bid for a couple of helicopter programmes in India, including the 100 NUH. The group has set up Reliance Defense and Aerospace (RDA) and appointed former Indian Air Force officer Rajesh Dhingra as head, who until recently was MD at US-based Lockheed Martin India. RDA is wholly owned by Reliance Infrastructure.
The PM’s ‘Make in India’ mantra for defense procurement has been the driver for several big businesses in India, including the Anil Ambani group. Modi has personally urged all big business houses to enter defense and aerospace, which has been identified as a priority area under the ‘Make in India’ policy for stepping up industrial production. Each helicopter is to be armed for anti-submarine warfare role and night capability radars. As against the Chetak, which has only one engine and a limited range, the new machine would be twin-engine with a range of 100 km. Chetak, manufactured by HAL, is now regarded as a primitive rotorcraft and has no night operations or fighting capability.
The MoD intends to replace the existing fleet of Chetak design which has been derived from the ancient Alouette-III and augment it by more than 100 NUHs (having full SAR & utility capabilities, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capability, anti-piracy and anti-terrorism and limited maritime surveillance and targeting capability). The RFI seeks inputs towards procurement of the helicopters under the category of ‘Buy & Make (Indian).