India Navy to lease 24 utility choppers for five years

File Photo: For representational purposes only.

New Delhi: The Indian Navy today began a fresh process for leasing 24 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH), issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to foreign vendors. The last date for replying to the RFI is June 18.

According to the RFI, the navy plans to keep the helicopters with ground-support equipment for five years.

“This lease will also include all maintenance support ashore, including Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) and training of air crew and maintenance crew during the term of the lease,” the navy said in the RFI documents.

The Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) or authorised leasing firms or government-sponsored export agencies are eligible for participation in the bidding process, in accordance with the norms of Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020.

This clause opens up the possibility of a tightly fought contest, if a tender or Request for Proposals (RFP) is issued against this RFI, in the coming months and years.

The competitors for this order may include global helicopter makers such as Airbus Helicopters, Russian state-owned export agency Rosoboronexport and all others in between. The competing firms could also include the Indian state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), with its offering of the Dhruv helicopter.

The RFI documents said the navy wants helicopters in the weight category of five tonnes and below. The offered platform should be able to perform a range of activities while operating from the ships of the Indian Navy and ashore, both day and night.

The activities mentioned include search and rescue from ships at sea, medical evacuation, communication duties to and from ships, and low-intensity maritime operations, for which a gun mount is to be provided.

The RFI said the helicopters should be twin-engine and piloted by two pilots with wheeled landing gear and blade fold capability.

It said the lessor will also have to indicate the possibility of delivering all 24 helicopters within two years from the date of signing of the contact and that the training schedule is to be in line with the delivery schedule.

The present RFI for leasing the utility helicopters are a clear indication of delays in the existing procurement plans for 111 NUHs under the Strategic Partnership route.

The proposal for issuing the tenders for the 111 helicopters is stuck over the HAL’s bid to enter the fray through the backdoor, though its Dhruv proposal was rejected by the Defence Minister-led Defence Acquisition Council three years ago.

The Department of Defence Production has been exerting undue pressure on the government to let the HAL bid for the 111 chopper tender, clearly against the Strategic Partnership policy norms to promote Indian private sector in some key areas of defence production in India.

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