Lack of helicopters hits Navy’s operational capabilities against enemy Submarines

Highlights

  • Navydesperately requires 147 multi-role helicopters (MRHs) with anti-submarine warfare capabilities
  • Even the initial procurement of 16 MRHs, with an option for eight more, has not materialised
  • The long-winded acquisition of 123 more naval MRHs as well as 110 NUHs is yet to even kick off

The critical shortage of helicopters has emerged as the most alarming operational gap+ in the Navy, even more than submarines, minesweepers and missiles, with new acquisition and production projects failing to make any headway for well over a decade now.

The Navy, in fact, desperately requires+ 147 multi-role helicopters (MRHs) with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, without which its warships are virtually defenceless against enemy submarines, and 110 twin-engine naval light utility helicopters (NUHs) to replace obsolete single-engine Chetaks.

But even the initial procurement of 16 MRHs, with an option for eight more, has not materialised+ despite being granted the “acceptance of necessity” way back in 2005.

Instead, the global tender for this project issued in 2008 is now on the verge of being scrapped, with cost negotiations with helicopter-manufacturer Sikorsky (acquired by US armament giant Lockheed Martin) remaining deadlocked.

Moreover, the long-winded acquisition of 123 more naval MRHs as well as 110 NUHs is yet to even kick off because of the defence ministry’s failure to finalize the “strategic partnership” model under the “Make in India” policy.

The situation has become so desperate+ that the Navy has now submitted a “dissent note” to the MoD against the move to junk the procurement of 16 S-70B Seahawk choppers from Sikorsky, say sources.

The MoD remains strongly opposed to Sikorsky’s demand for a steep price hike for the 16 choppers on the ground the contract finalization has been pending for several years, as was reported by TOI earlier.

“In its dissent note, the Navy says the 16 MRHs are a critical operational necessity. Sikorsky extended the validity of its old commercial bid several times but, in early-2016, held it could not do so any longer. But MoD feels the new price is too high, over 40% more than the original benchmarking price,” said a source.

The Navy is inducting four to five warships every year, in tune with its plan to become a 212-warship force by 2027, but has virtually run out of MRHs to operate from their decks to detect, track and kill enemy submarines.

Such choppers fly ahead of warships to “dunk” their sonars into the deep waters, “ping” for enemy submarines and let loose torpedoes and depth charges against them to clear the path for the fleet.

The Navy currently has just 10 Kamov-28 and 17 Sea King helicopters to defend its existing fleet of 138 warships. While the Sea Kings are well over 20 years old, the Kamov-28s are now undergoing a mid-life upgrade under a $294 million deal inked with Russia last year.

Incidentally, with the armed forces overall requiring around 1,200 helicopters of different types over the next 10-15 years to replace ageing fleets at an estimated cost of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore, sources say the tri-Service Integrated Defence Staff has also formulated a “consolidated helicopter acquisition strategy” under the Defence Procurement Procedure-2016.

 

 

 

 

Source;- TNN

The post Lack of helicopters hits Navy’s operational capabilities against enemy Submarines appeared first on Indian Defence Update.



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