The Indian navy has begun evaluating four proposals for its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter replacement requirement, writes Brendan Sobie.
Industry sources say bids have been submitted by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) offering the Eurocopter EC725, NH Industries the NH90, Sikorsky the S-70B and by the US Navy for the new Sikorsky-built, Lockheed Martin integrated MH-60R.
The Indian navy is looking to replace its ageing Westland Sea King fleet, which when delivered in the 1980s consisted of over 40 aircraft, and initially plans to acquire 16 replacements and take eight options. The navy will conduct field evaluations after finishing technical evaluations, but the manufacturers have not yet been provided with a schedule for site visits. A contract could be signed as early as next year, but sources say the navy may opt to delay the acquisition and instead buy a proposed 10t indigenous helicopter from HAL.
The Indian manufacturer plans to select a foreign company to help it launch a five-year indigenous development or co-development programme. Sources say Eurocopter and Sikorsky are now preparing proposals, which will be submitted to HAL around mid-year. Sources say Bell also met with HAL earlier this year to discuss co-developing a new helicopter that would have expanded Bell’s portfolio into the 10t category, but the US manufacturer has decided against submitting a bid.
AgustaWestland, which did not respond to the navy’s tender because its EH101 is too large for the requirement, is also unlikely to submit a bid for the HAL project.
Sources say Eurocopter is the frontrunner over Sikorsky because it has already teamed with HAL to offer the EC725 in response to the navy’s tender and the duo is also planning joint bids for other Indian helicopter acquisition programmes.