Request for Information issued by Indian Navy to procure approximately 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) along with two flight simulators, one maintenance simulator and infrastructure including Transfer of Technology (ToT) could spell end game for HAL’s effort to get Indian Navy on board its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) to replace its ageing HAL developed Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in service with Indian Navy .

Navy in its RFI made it clear that Helicopters other than capable of carrying out routine operations like Search and Rescue, Medical Evacuation, Communication Duties, Communication Duties, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) will also need to carry at least one light weight Anti Submarine Torpedo for sub surface operations along with Radar and sensor package required for Target Detection .

Tender documents for 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) has provision for only 15 Basic version of Helicopter and reminder 96 Helicopters are required to have sub surface operation capabilities, which means the whole fleet of Indian Navy’s Next Generation Naval Utility Helicopters will be equipped with Torpedo carrying capabilities.

Indian Army and Indian Airforce have already selected HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and Russian designed Kamov Ka 226-T Light utility helicopter to replace its vintage fleet of HAL developed Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in their service, while Navy was officially never onboard this projects it was expected that Navy Specific variants will be developed over the course of time which could be suitable for ship based operations.

HAL in anticipation of Indian Navy coming on board soon on its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) program had developed a new foldable rotor system which allowed it to be kept in ship’s hangar facility but requirement for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations could mean HAL’s LUH is unlikely to compete in the tender due to past failures to develop an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) variant of HAL Dhruv.

Indo-Russian Joint Company which will manufacture nearly 200 of the KA 226 light choppers for the Indian armed forces in India soon, but KA 226 too will not qualify due non-folding rotor blades and its inability to carry weapons like torpedoes & depth charges required for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations.

Procurement for Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) been turned into a full fledged light anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations platform could be Navy’s way to keep in sync with emerging threat perception in the region with construction of Chinese Naval bases in the Indian Ocean and also due to increasing number of Chinese Submarine operations in the area.

Indian Navy also has issued Request for Information for procurement of 123 Naval Multi-role Helicopters, with anti-submarine warfare capabilities which with 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) Helicopters will allow Indian Navy to have the largest fleet of Helicopters with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities in the region.

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