Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is making a pitch for an Indian Navy requirement for 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH).
The company confirms to FlightGlobal that it has made an expression of interest with the defence ministry for the requirement.
HAL is proposing to offer a navalised variant of the 5.5t Dhruv helicopter, as well as the 3.6t Kamov Ka-226T, through its joint venture with Russian Helicopters, Indo-Russian Helicopters.
A navalised variant of the Dhruv with both a folding rotor and tail boom was first displayed at Aero India in February as a Technology Demonstrator (TD).
“The Dhruv TD displayed at Aero India was able to undertake limited blade folding, however, we are confident of meeting the navy requirements on blade folding,” the company says.
This folding process is expected to be time consuming, however.
The Navy commissioned its first Dhruv squadron in November 2013 and operates eight helicopters from onshore bases. These are used for search and rescue (SAR), special heli-borne operations, armed patrol, sniper operations and VVIP travel.
HAL’s entry into the NUH fray presents a challenge for local industrial groups such as Tata, Mahindra, Reliance, and the Adani group, which have responded to the expression of interest for the NUH.
The rotorcraft procurement was to have been implemented under the "Strategic Partnership" model introduced by New Delhi aimed at enabling more participation of Indian private sector firms in defence projects.
Foreign OEMs that are interested in the deal are Sikorsky with the S-76, Bell with the 429, and Airbus Helicopters with the AS565.
HALs entry highlights the difficulties New Delhi faces in its efforts to increase the capability of India’s private sector defence industry, which has little experience and insufficient infrastructure to take on large defence procurements.
Public sector enterprises, however, have traditionally benefited from state support, allowing them to develop infrastructure and manufacturing capacity - but at the cost of efficiency and quality control.
HAL has already produced more than 250 Dhruv helicopters at its Bengaluru Helicopter Complex and is setting up a new factory at nearby Tumakuru to build helicopters in the 3-12t range. That plant will produce 140 Ka-226Ts under license, in addition to 60 that will be built in Russia to meet the Indian order.
Tumakuru will also built the indigenously developed Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).
The NUH will replace the obsolescent HAL-built Chetak helicopters (license built Alouette IIIs) and will undertake SAR, casualty evacuation, communication duties, anti-piracy and anti-terrorism missions and sub-surface targetting.