NEW DELHI — The Indian Navy has begun its process of acquiring 110 light utility helicopters after rejecting Russia's Kamov Ka-226T, which are being built for the Air Force and Army, according to a Ministry of Defence official.
"The Kamov 226T does not have blade folding and cannot be fitted inside a ship's hangar. Moreover, it is not suitable to carry the torpedoes, which is the mandatory requirement," said an Indian Navy official.
The light utility helicopters, or LUH, will be procured under the strategic partnership policy India's government approved last month, under which a private-sector defence company will be selected as a strategic partner, which, in turn, will tie up with an overseas original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, shortlisted by the MoD.
In the next two months, an expression of interest will be given to domestic companies, including Bharat Forge, Reliance, Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra Aerospace and Tata Advanced Systems. The domestic companies will partner with overseas OEMs to compete for the contract worth $5 billion.
Under the proposal, 30 helicopters will be procured off the self and the remaining 80 will be manufactured in India by the selected private company. The Indian Navy wants to begin induction of the LUH within eight years.
However, the response for technology transfer of LUH from OEMs is not expected to be enthusiastic due to the lower number of order, the Indian Navy official said.
Airbus helicopters from Europe, Russian helicopters from Sikorsky and Bell helicopters from the U.S. are likely to compete in the LUH program.
The MoD has yet to decide whether to ask AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Leonardo of Italy, to participate in the program because of pending alleged corruption against AgustaWestland in its 2010 contract for VVIP helicopters, which was finally cancelled in 2014.
The contract will be awarded to the best technical offer and lowest price offer, the MoD official added.
The Indian Navy's LUH will be a twin-engine helicopter weighing 4.5 tons and can be used for both shore-based and offshore operations and operate from ship decks in all weather during the day and at night.
Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.