NEW DELHI — India’s Ministry of Defence’s apex procurement body, the Defence Acquisition Council, approved procurement of naval multirole and naval utility helicopters, but induction will not be made anytime soon.
MoD’s DAC approved the purchase of 24 MH-60 Romeo multi-role helicopters from the U.S. through a foreign military sale at a cost of more than $2 billion. DAC also approved purchase of 111 naval utility helicopters, costing around $3.39 billion, to be built under the Make in India policy by domestic private companies in partnership with overseas original equipment manufacturers.
But this is only budgetary approval for purchase of two types of naval helicopters; that budget has yet to be allocated, and no timeline has been set for when the procurement process would kick-start, said a senior MoD official.
“The procurement of naval multirole helicopters will take at least three to five years, while induction of naval utility helicopters will take from eight to 10years,”he noted.
Another MoD official said the budgetary allocation for the naval multirole helicopters would come in the next three to six months; thereafter MoD will issue a letter of request, or LOR, to the U.S. Department of Defense, outlining specific requirements., beginning negotiations.
MoD plans to pursue the procurement of 111 naval utility helicopters under Make in India’s strategic partners policy, under which choppers will be produced by selected private companies though a possible joint venture and technology transfer from foreign companies.
No private defense company in India have produced helicopters before, which could create a lengthy selection process.
In July last year, Indian Navy floated a request for information (RFI) to both domestic and foreign original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, to participate in naval utility helicopter program.
Foreign OEMs including Airbus Helicopters of France, Russian Helicopters of Russia, Lockheed Martin and Bell of United States have expressed interest in supporting procurement efforts. Domestic private defense companies Adani Group, Bharat Forge Ltd, Reliance Defence, Mahindra Aerospace and Tata Advanced Systems Ltd have also responded to the RFI to build naval utility helicopters in the country.
Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.