Indian Armed Forces are having a huge requirement for Helicopters and are looking to fulfill the gap. Recently issued of RFI for Helicopters by Navy under SP model will be a game changer for Indian Industrial base. The private sector, including MSE and MSME's will be benefited for the long run.

Indian Armed Forces are in the urgent need for advanced helicopters with about 78 percent fleet comprising  of light or medium lift helicopters out of which 57 percent fleet is more than 20 years old and is nearly scheduled for replacement. The Indian Armed Forces are planning to induct over 1,000 helicopters of different type's including - attack, utility, and multi role and lift platforms by the end of 2027. In the recent past, besides procuring 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters through the Foreign Military Sales program, worth $3-billion from US, DAC has also approved the procurement of twin engine 15 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) for the Indian Air Force and the Army at the cost of Rs 2,911 crore from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). These choppers are being procured under the buy Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) category. The Army has additional requirement of 114 LCHs, and the IAF another 65. The LCH has demonstrated capability to land and take off at High altitude area with considerable load, fuel and weapons that are beyond any other combat helicopter. Another is for Kamov helicopter under $1 billion contract.

            Lately, a global RFI for Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) and Naval Multi-Role Helicopters (NMRH) has been issued on 23 August 2017, for which the last date of receipt of response is 06 Oct 17. RFI has been issued to Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, Airbus Helicopters and Russian Helicopters amongst other.  The requirement is for approximately 234 naval choppers (Naval Utility helicopters and Naval Multi Role Helicopters) worth around $ 10 billion. Both procurements will be pursued under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model. The other project under the model is the construction of Project 75 (I) submarines. The SP model will initiate to establish long term partnership with qualified OEMs by forming JV to seek technology transfer and manufacturing know-how to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains in India.

The RFI can be download from the Indian Navy website (https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/tenders/2). Extract of main requirement is as under.

Basic QR Naval Utility Helicopters

India requires approximately 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) along-with two flight simulators, one maintenance simulator and infrastructure including Transfer of Technology (ToT). Out of total, few helicopters are to be initially delivered in basic version to meet immediate requirement of training and SAR. The helicopter should be able to perform the following roles by day and night:-

  • Search and Rescue.
  • Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC).
  • Communication Duties.
  • Anti-Piracy and Anti-terrorism.
  • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
  • Surveillance and Targeting.

Basic QR Naval Multi Role Helicopters (NMRH)

The twin-engine helicopter will have two variants: multi-role and special operations with approx requirement of about 123 along-with spare engines, three flight simulators, one maintenance simulator, and infrastructure including ToT, 10 year performance based logistics, associated shore support, Engineering Support Package (ESP), training, documentation and spares package along with contemporary state of the art equipment, weapons and sensors under Strategic Partnership. The intended use of the helicopters are as follows:-

NMRH (Multi Role)

  • Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW).
  • Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW).
  • Electronic Intelligence (ELINT).
  • Search and Rescue.
  • External Cargo carrying (min 2500 kg).
  • Limited Casualty Evacuation.

NMRH (Spl Ops)

  • Special Ops and Commando Role
  • Troop Carriage
  • Maritime Interdiction including Anti-Piracy Operations.
  • Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR)
  • External Cargo Carriage (min 2500 kg)
  • Limited Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC)
  • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
  • Logistics and Communication duties.

Essential Technical Parameters

 Both the helicopters should be twin-engine; having wheeled landing gear, dual flying controls (two pilot seats) and blade fold capability. The helicopter should be capable of operating from ships and ashore. Towards maritime surveillance and targeting capability, sensors and weapons to meet the envisaged role would be required to be integrated with the helicopters.

Weapons and Sensors

  • Airborne Missiles and Depth Charge and sensors {such as Electro Optical (EO) Pod, Data Link, Self Protection Suite, Software Defined Radio, Identification Friend Foe (IFF) responder etc}. for both NUH and NMRH.
  • Light Weight Torpedo (LWT) for NMRH only.

Maintenance Repair and Overall (MRO)

Facilities for 'O' and 'I' level maintenance facility is to be set up in stages at least one months prior to delivery of helicopter at designated place. MRO facility is to be set up in India for 'D' level maintenance and overhaul of helicopters. OEM is to indicate proposed timeline for setting up of MRO.

Estimate Cost

The OEM is to provide indicative cost for the program under SP Model. The OEMs should take into account all aspects of supply of production material, manufacturing, Transfer of Technology, trials, documentation, training and life cycle support for a period of 30 years. Breakdown of cost is to be indicated, separate for Indian and foreign components. And it should include 10 years performance based logistics only in case of NMRH only.

Transfer of Technology (ToT)

India desirous of acquiring technologies including detailed manufacturing know how of the helicopter being offered by the OEM. Availability of ToT would be an essential pre-requisite for processing the instant case. The Key technology sought in for sub systems required to be transferred to Indian companies in India are:-

  • Rotor Blades & associated systems-Including Main & Tail Rotor assemblies, Blade Folding System, Fluid Elastic Dampers, Elastomeric Bearings and associated system.
  • Rotating Upper Control System
  • Transmission System including Main, Tail & Intermediate Gear Boxes, Housings, Gears, Drive Shafts and associated Systems.
  • Vibration Isolation System
  • Fuel Tanks - Main & Auxiliary Tanks
  • AFCS
  • Wheeled Landing Gear, Wheel Brake & Parking Brake with capability to operate from ship.
  • Hydraulic System LRUs including Main & Tail Rotor Actuators
  • Health & Usage Monitoring System (HUMS)

The ToT plan is to be submitted highlighting the following:-

  • Range, depth and scope of technology transfer offered in identified areas.
  • Extent of indigenous content proposed.
  • Extent of eco-system of Indian vendors/manufacturers proposed.
  • Measures to support Strategic Partner (SP) in establishing system for integration of platforms.
  • Plans to train skilled manpower in India.
  • Extent of future Research and Development (R & D) plan in India.

Indigenization Content

The Indigenization Content (IC) not be less than 40% on cost basis of the Make portion of contract.

As technology is the indispensable area, therefore, OEMs will provide a formal acceptance of their Govt that necessary license to transfer technology will be granted in case the OEM is selected as a partner for the Indian SP to manufacture the platforms or equipment in India, wherever required, prior to issuance of RFP.


Indian Contenders:

Most likely the following domestic private companies will be in the strategic partner race.

  • Bharat Forge Limited,
  • Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited,
  • Larsen & Toubro,
  • Mahindra Aerospace
  • Tata Advanced Systems Limited.

OEM Contenders:


  • AgustaWestland most likely will offer its AW101 helicopter. The company has been present in India since 1970, supplying Sea King helicopters to the Indian Navy. AgustaWestland has expanded its service network in India and it's able to guarantee greater levels of support and maintenance to its local customers.
  • Looking at the Indian Armed Forces present and future needs, AgustaWestland is able to meet the requirements for any land or sea mission, proposing their models such as the AW119, AW109 LUH, AW139, NH90 and AW101.
  • AgustaWestland and Tata Sons established a JV for the final assembly in India of the single-engine AW119 helicopter and to carry out integration and flight testing of eight-seat AW119 helicopters.

Bell Helicopters

Bell likely to offer its naval version of its 429 Helicopter, which helps in search-and-rescue, anti-surface warfare and utility missions from both shipborne and land-based locations. During Aero-India also the company has offer this helicopter to Navy and other variants to Army and IAF.

Bell Helicopter, has Memo of Understanding (MoU) with Dynamatic Technologies to explore establishing Dynamatic Technologies as a sub-contractor for its Bell 407 Air Frame Cabin Assembly and Air Frame Component. In 2016, Bell Helicopter and Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) entered into the deal to jointly develop the helicopter market in India, including potential production and assembly, training, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), Research and Development (R&D) and technology sharing.

Russian Helicopters (Russia)

  • India is one of the major operators of Russian-made helicopters. Currently, there are more than 400 helicopters in operation there, which is almost 10% of the Russian Helicopters' global fleet used outside of Russia.
  • Currently, as part of the “Make in India” program, a joint Indo-Russian project is underway to build Ka-226T light helicopters in India.
  • LM/Sikorsky
  • The company likely to offer its S-70B Seahawk or the CH-148 Cyclone, as both meets the technical requirement. Sikorsky Sea King helicopters are used by the Indian Navy principally for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), search & rescue roles and by the naval commandos for conducting operations.
  • Sikorsky has signed a memorandum of understanding with Tata Advanced Systems (TAS) to manufacture chopper cabins in India for the formers first dedicated civil and rescue helicopter in India, the S-92.


Company may offer its NH-90 helicopter. Airbus works directly with Indian companies in designing and manufacturing aerostructures, and strongly encourages its major Tier 1 suppliers to partner with Indian organisations to expand their reach and capacity. Through its Tier 1 suppliers, Airbus also is engaging with Indian companies such as Tata, Mahindra and AEQUS which manufacture sub-assemblies and detail parts across Airbus programmes.

  • Two dedicated design centres one for Fuselage (with Axis Cades) and the other for Wing and Pylon (with QuEST) are in operation to handle concession activities.
  • Dynamatic Technologies signed an agreement to be the single source supplier of flap-track beams for the wide body A330 Family aircraft.
  • Additionally, Airbus has earlier tied-up with, Reliance Defence and Aerospace, Larsen & Toubro, Punj Lloyd, and Reliance Ltd; to explore the helicopter market in India.

Timeline under SP model

The selection of the OEM and the Indian Strategic Partner will be in a parallel process and as per the tentative time schedule given below.

            The Contract could be in place by December 2021, in case the programme moves as per schedule. The partnership could be a big leap for Indian defence industry in helicopter manufacturing basic configuration and setting up a sub system supply chain.

            There are some questions raised as to why to float global tender for NUH when HAL made Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv is available? The NUH is required to be twin-engine, this rules out the single-engined LUH. ALH is locally produced & its IPRs are HAL-owned could be contender, as HAL is understood to have been improving some of the shortcomings such as folding-blade mechanisms and other fitment of subsystems with the help of Foreign OEM.


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