The Indian Navy to prioritize anti-submarine helicopters and drones acquisition over the fourth generation fighters. Speaking to FE ONLINE on condition of anonymity, a senior officer confirmed that “So far the Ministry of Defence has issued the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) with a validity of 18 months for the acquisition of 24 anti-submarine and anti-ship multi-role helicopters (MRH) for the Indian Navy.”
The MH-60R will provide a vital capability for the Indian Navy in the Indo-Pacific region, where according to the Trump administration India is considered as a major partner to ensure stability and prosperity in the strategic region.
While there is still a long way to go the MoD is keen on expediting acquisition of the Naval Utility Helicopters as it is the first project under the ambitious Strategic Partner (SP) Model, under which the private firms are to be identified for building select military platforms in India in partnership with foreign defence manufacturers.
“The success of this project is very critical as it will also ensure that future programmes under the SP model will succeed,” a senior officer explained.
As has been reported by FE earlier, the government has given approval for the US based Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky MH-60Rs `Romeos’ fitted with sensors through the Foreign Military sale (FMS) route from the US as it is a sale between two governments. Besides a clause for 30 % offsets, there will be certain changes made on these helicopters keeping in mind the Indian Navy’s requirement. The deal is for around $ 2 bn for 24 anti-submarine and MRH capabilities.
It may be recalled that a decade ago the there was a proposal for MRH to replace the Sea King helicopters in the Indian Navy. The government had issued an RFI for it in 2011 as well as in 2013. These helicopters are an integral part of the frontline warships like the aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes.
According to senior officer, the approval from the government is only for the budget but there is no set timeline for the procurement process to start. Once the deal is confirmed the delivery of these 24 helicopters will be spread over at least five years.
The Indian Navy is intending to buy 57 carrier-based multirole fighters for its new Vikrant-class aircraft carrier — the 65,000-ton INS Vishal which is already delayed. Global aerospace giants including US based Lockheed Martin, Boeing Company, Sweden-based SAAB, French Dassault Aviation and Russia’s MIG had responded to requests for information from the MoD in 2017.