Indian Navy May Take Light Utility Helicopters On Lease

Indian Navy May Take Light Utility Helicopters On LeaseAfter maritime surveillance drones, the Navy is considering taking light utility helicopters on lease to plug a vital capability gap in frontline warships. The plan is to use the newly instituted lease option in the procurement policy as a make-shift arrangement as a program to manufacture naval utility helicopters in India under the strategic partnership model is still lingering.

Sources said that foreign vendors have been approached by the Navy to understand if such choppers – typically used to transport supplies and personnel between ships with a secondary surveillance role – would be available for short term lease.

The Navy is looking to lease 12-18 choppers on an urgent basis where the maintenance would be done by the vendor but the helicopters would be operated by a service crew. While formal tenders to initiate the process are yet to be issued, the Navy is looking at a four-year lease to meet immediate needs.

There is an acute shortage of such helicopters in the Navy that had been relying on its aging fleet of Chetak choppers for a shipborne role. With the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) unable to operate from smaller vessels due to their size, frontline warships being commissioned suffer a distinct capability gap.

Sources said that plans as of now are to take just the choppers on a lease, which would later be retrofitted with light weapons by the Navy, as per its requirement. The choppers are likely to be armed only with a machine gun during the lease period.

The Navy has been pursuing a Rs 21,000 crore Make in India contract to acquire Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) but the program has been delayed after complications over the entry of public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

While the Navy is not in favor of HALs inclusion, arguing that there is a dire need to establish alternative capability in the private sector to manufacture modern aircraft, HAL has been pushing the case for a naval version of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).

The navy is already operating the ALH in a utility role but requires 111 helicopters for deployment onboard ships to carry out multiple roles, including surveillance and ferrying supplies. The requirement is urgent and a specialized chopper is needed that can be quickly deployed and retrieved and can be stored in the space-constrained hangar onboard all vessels.

The process to acquire the choppers is already in advanced stages with four Indian companies shortlisted who can partner with a foreign technology provider to make the helicopters domestically.

The Economic Times

Kartik Sud

I am working as a News Author With the DefenceXP network, Observing LOC and LAC

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