This is the first project under the ministry of defence’s Strategic Partnership model that aims to provide a significant fillip to the Make in India programme.
Ahead of the Indo-US ‘2+2 dialogue’ scheduled to take place on September 6 in New Delhi, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on Saturday approved the procurement of 111 utility helicopters for the Indian Navy at a cost of over Rs 21,000 crore. This is the first project under the ministry of defence’s (MoD’s) Strategic Partnership (SP) Model that aims at providing a significant fillip to the government’s Make in India programme.
The naval utility helicopters will replace the ageing fleet of Chetak helicopters, meant for logistics and search-and-rescue operations. Interestingly, two US-based companies have responded to the global request for information (RFI) that was sent out last year by the MoD for over 200 helicopters for the Indian Navy under the new SP model. These included US-based Bell Helicopters, Sikorsky, which has been acquired by Lockheed Martin, and Airbus of Europe and Russia.
The procurement of the naval utility helicopters will be the first project under the ambitious SP model, which provides for roping in private firms to build select military platforms in India in partnership with foreign defence manufacturers. “The DAC, in a landmark decision today, approved procurement of 111 Utility Helicopters for the Indian Navy at a cost of over `21,000 crore,” the defence ministry said.
The utility helicopters will be used in attack missions as well as for search and rescue and surveillance operations.
The ministry said the DAC also granted approval to a few other procurement proposals amounting to Rs 24,879.16 crore, which included one on buying 150 indigenously-designed and developed 155 mm advanced towed artillery gun systems for the Indian Army at an approximate cost of Rs 3,364.78 crore.
These guns have been indigenously designed and developed by DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) and will be manufactured by production agencies, as nominated by DRDO.
The DAC also accorded approval to procure 24 naval multi role helicopters (NMRH) which will have the capability to engage in anti-submarine warfare. The MRHs are an integral part of the frontline warships like the aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. In addition, the government also approved procurement of 14 vertically launched short range missile systems. Of these, 10 systems will be indigenously developed.
“These systems will boost the self-defence capability of ships against anti-ship missiles,” the ministry said.
The Indian Navy in August last year had issued global request for information (RFI) for procurement of 111 utility and 123 multi-role helicopters.
The Navy has been pressing the government to procure new utility and multi-role helicopters to add teeth to its existing capability and replace its ageing fleet of choppers but the procurement process has seen years of delay. The government had issued an RFI for it in 2011 as well as in 2013.
In May last year, the defence ministry had finalised the SP model under which select private firms will be roped in to build military platforms like submarines, fighter jets and choppers in India in partnership with foreign entities.