The Ministry of Defence today approved the purchase of 111 helicopters for the Indian Navy amounting to a cost of Rs 21,738 crore. According to reports, the proposal for the purchase was pending for a long time and was cleared by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council.
Of the 111 helicopters, 16 will arrive in flyaway condition while the rest will be manufactured in India. In order to begin the procurement, a foreign helicopter manufacturer and an Indian defence company will be identified for joint ventures and technology transfers.
The helicopters that could be selected for the project include the Airbus AS565 Panther light naval helicopter and a new variant of the AgustaWestland AW109 Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). The LUHs are supposed to replace the Navy’s old fleet of Cheetah and Chetak Helicopters.
The AgustaWestland choppers originally entered service in 1976 and since then have been in use for several purposes such as light transport, medevac, search and rescue and military roles. Powered by a single engine, the helo has been in production for 40 years.
The Airbus AS565 is built by Eurocopter and has a multipurpose twin engine setup. It can be used for a wide range of military roles such as combat assault, fire support, anti-submarine warfare, antisurface warfare, search and rescue and medical evacuations. The Panther is a highly customiseable aircraft. In the commando transport configuration, it can carry up to 10 fully armed soldiers along with two pilots. The cockpit can be reconfigured for various roles and optional equipments such as medical suites, FLIR cameras, loudspeakers, search lights etc can be added.The Navy has often voiced concerns of its aging fleet on aircraft and aims to replace them soon.