India could issue a request for proposals for naval multirole helicopters around mid-2009, with the country looking for 16 aircraft to replace its ageing Sea Kings.
The European NH Industries consortium is likely to offer the NH90, while Sikorsky's S-70B Seahawk will be in the mix as a direct commercial sale. The Sikorsky MH-60R is to be offered as part of the US government's foreign military sale mechanism.
Industry sources expect New Delhi to make a decision by early 2010, with deliveries to begin around 18 months later. The final requirement could reach around 60 helicopters. India wants the aircraft to be equipped with anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare equipment, including cruise missiles and torpedoes, and capable of being refuelled in flight. The type will operate from both naval vessels and land bases.
© NH Industries
The acquisition is part of the Indian navy's plan to modernise its aviation wing in the coming years. To augment its rotorcraft fleet, the service plans to acquire additional Kamov Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters, and could conduct mid-life upgrades to its Ka-28 and Westland Sea King transport helicopters.
It is also bolstering its fixed-wing fleet, ordering eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft in January, and is beginning a competition to select eight medium-range maritime patrol aircraft. It has also ordered the MiG-29K naval fighters and is contemplating the purchase of a naval version of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft. Hindustan Aeronautics is also working with Israel to develop an unmanned air vehicle based on its Cheetah helicopter for the navy, with the service possibly ordering around 40 of the type.