The newly formed NDA government has come up with a big defence contract of Rs. 17,500 crore deal with the United States for naval helicopters before the yearend as informed by two senior officials familiar with the navy’s modernization on the condition of anonymity.
According to the officials, India is buying 24 Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters to strengthen the navy’s anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare and surveillance capabilities.
It has been reported that the multi-role helicopter purchase is being made under the US government’s foreign military sale programme which involves a direct government-to-government sale. The officials further informed that they hope to conclude the contract with the US by October-November and the deliveries are expected to begin 18 months after the contract is signed and all the MH-60Rs should be in by 2022. The helicopters will plug a key capability gap.
Meanwhile, the navy is also pursuing a plan to build 111 naval utility helicopters (NUH) in India under the strategic partnership (SP) model to replace its outdated fleet of French-designed Chetak choppers and the technical bids of the foreign firms competing for the project were opened on Monday. The NUH are being used by the Navy for search and rescue operation, medical evacuation, communication duties, anti-piracy and anti-terrorism operations, humanitarian assistance, surveillance and targeting.