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The Rs 21,738 crore deal for 111 Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) proposed to be `Made in India’ could tip in favour of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL). A top officer told Financial Express Online “The Company’s NUH is an Advanced Light Helicopter `Dhruv’ with customisation designed to meet all the operational requirements of India.”
Adding, “The flying machine can be fitted with torpedoes, Depth Charges & Missiles, Self Protection System (SPS) & Flight Crew Data (FCD). Besides having Software-defined radio (SDR), Data Link & SATCOM, these helicopters will have the main rotor blade folding and tail boom folding to enable stowage in Navy’s ship hangars.”
Earlier this year at the Aero India 2019, HAL had demonstrated the Tail Boom folding and Main Rotor folding of the Naval Utility Helicopter.
US-based Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Helicopters which has responded to the Express of Interest (EoI), is likely to drop out at the next level as it has multiple non-compliances. “Unless the Indian Navy dilutes its requirements at the Request for Proposal (RfP) Stage, the company might drop out since it is non-compliant to many of the specifications of the helicopter the navy is seeking,” a top official said.
Three companies Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Helicopter S 76D, European Airbus and Russia’s Kamov Ka 226T, have responded to the EoI floated by the defence ministry earlier this year. The companies last month submitted proposals to build their helicopters through an Indian industry designated as “strategic partner” (SP).
The European manufacturer Airbus has submitted proposals for two platforms – the H 145M and the Panther AS565 – to be manufactured in partnership with Mahindra Defence.
Under an Indo-Russian inter-governmental agreement (IGA), both HAL and Indo-Russian Helicopters Ltd (IRHL) already have a joint venture to manufacture the Kamov 226T light helicopter in India.
HAL on its own has offered its indigenous ALH for the NUH deal.
This will be the first acquisition under the SP procurement model when it is finalised. Under the SP model the OEM is expected to tie up with local Indian companies who are manufacturing major platforms in India with niche technologies and production knowhow supplied by a foreign OEM.
According to officials, Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the EoI has stated that the OEMs have been mandated to set up a dedicated manufacturing line, including design, integration and manufacturing processes for NUH in India. It had also said the OEM will have to make Indian manufacturing line as a global exclusive facility for the NUH platform being offered.
As has been reported by The Financial Express earlier in 2015, the Indian Navy had received as many as 10 bids from Indian companies for the NUH programme. However, in an effort to keep the process transparent, the navy had encouraged OEMs tying up with a single Indian partner.
Once the contract is finalised, 16 helicopters will come from the OEM directly and the balance will have to manufacture in India with almost 60 per cent indigenisation. In a process which will take a couple of months, all the technical bids will be scrutinised by the Indian Navy, before intensive trials start for evaluating the performance of each machine in different terrains and weather conditions.