New Delhi issues requests for ASW helicopters and maritime reconnaissance aircraft, as fighter suppliers line up
India has opened competitions for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters and long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and is expected by April to issue a highly anticipated tender for next-generation fighters.
Industry sources say the Indian navy is seeking proposals by mid-March for eight maritime reconnaissance aircraft, but that the service has rejected a US government proposal to lease two Lockheed Martin P-3 Orions as an interim solution. The navy has also set a March deadline to receive bids for 16 ASW helicopters, plus eight options, but the manufacturers that were handed the tender – AgustaWestland, Eurocopter, Kamov and Sikorsky – are asking for an extension.
The maritime reconnaissance tender is believed to have been forwarded to BAE Systems, Boeing, EADS, Ilyushin and Lockheed. The latter had hoped to gain an inside track through a December 2005 US Navy offer to lease two P-3s, but this was rejected by New Delhi last month. However, Lockheed still appears well positioned, as Boeing will not be ready to export its 737-based P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft until about 2012 and other US companies interested in offering refurbished P-3s – including L-3 Communications – will probably be blocked from competing.
Tupolev Tu-142 and Westland Sea King replacements are just two of a long list of new aircraft requirements drafted by New Delhi, and manufacturers have complained that it has yet to release a priority list. A contract for almost 200 multi-role army helicopters is expected to be concluded first, but the selection of the Bell 407 or Eurocopter AS550 has already been delayed from late 2005 until at least mid-2006.
Fighter manufacturers also have been waiting several months to receive a tender for 126 new aircraft. New Delhi has not moved on the estimated $6-8 billion programme since asking in late 2004 for information on the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Mirage 2000-5, Lockheed F-16, RSK MiG MiG-29 and Saab Gripen. Manufacturers expect Dassault’s Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon will also be considered for the tender, now expected to be released in March or April. However, industry sources say the inclusion of the additional aircraft types, plus uncertainty over how to measure an expected requirement for 30% direct offsets and 90% technology transfer, could extend the evaluation period until 2007 or even 2008.
India, meanwhile, has also announced its intention to pursue an almost $890 million upgrade to its existing air force fleet of MiG-29s with Russia’s RSK MiG.
BRENDAN SOBIE / SINGAPORE
Source: Flight International