Firms line up as Navy reaches for the skies

With fifth-generation fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, heavy-lift choppers and VVIP copters, the IAF's modern aircraft story has just taken off. But the Navy isn't far behind. Shortly, the Indian Navy will be floating a 'Request for Proposal (RfP)' to buy 120 naval multi-role helicopter (NMRH), for about Rs 35,000 crore considered the biggest helicopter deal in the world.

The Navy is in all poised to acquire over 200 helicopters in different categories, including the NMRH. These include 16 multi-role helicopters, for which field trials are complete with contenders waiting for declaration of the lowest bidder. An RfP for 56 naval utility helicopters (NUH) has also been issued.

At the Aero India show that concluded here Sunday, there were several global contenders trying to sell their machines for the Indian skies and shores.

On Friday, Vice Admiral Pradeep Chatterjee, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, in-charge of the directorate that looks after aviation procurements, visited the helicopter manufacturers at the show.

Sikorsky: Pitched its S-70B Seahawk helicopter for NMRH, besides three other variants S-60R, S-60S and CH-148 cyclone. While the specifications on offer would vary as per requirements, the manufacturer said the ability to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers gave its helicopters multi-role operability. It touts S-70B's anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and search and rescue capabilities, as well as its state of the art avionics and automatic flight control systems.

"We have suggested four platforms to best suit the Navy's requirements. All the platforms have been used by a number of forces across the world," said Air Vice Marshal (retd) A J S Walia, regional executive, India and South Asia, Sikorsky. It has evinced interest in supplying helicopters to meet shore-based requirements, as well as ship-borne choppers and helicopters for dry lease for the Indian Coast Guard.

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