The armed forces’ quest for new helicopters has seen controversies, scams and scrapping of tenders, much like the lingering Bofors ghost not allowing the induction of any new artillery howitzer in the Army for the last 30 years. In a bid to break the jinx, the Centre is set to kick off the hunt for over 100 new-generation naval utility helicopters (NUH), which will replace the obsolete Chetak helicopters in the Navy, in a ‘Make in India’ project with foreign collaboration for over $2 billion. Eleven Indian private sector companies, ranging from Tata Advanced Systems, Bharat Forge, Mahindra Aerospace to Reliance Defence & Aerospace and L&T, have already responded with proposed joint ventures revolving around three foreign helicopters – AS565 MBe of Airbus, Bell Helicopters-429 and Super Lynx 300 of AgustaWestland. With the armed forces planning to induct well over 1,000 helicopters of different types in the next 10-15 years, the Indian private sector eyes a big business opportunity in the country’s aerospace sector, which has largely been domestic PSU Hindustan Aeronautics’ preserve so far. “The formal tender for the over 100 NUH is now being vetted before issuance. The project will give a fillip to the ‘Make in India’ initiative in the aerospace industry, with transfer of technology in niche areas not available here till now,” said a source.
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