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In light of uncertainties surrounding the halted negotiations between India and Russia for the acquisition of 10 Kamov Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters, Indian Navy officials have begun seeking alternatives to fulfil their requirements. The deal, valued at $520 million, was put on hold due to concerns over arms supplies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. However, the Indian Navy, which currently operates 14 Ka-31 helicopters, requires these aircraft for the effective airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) of other aircraft within the strike group of its second aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant.

Insiders familiar with the matter have confirmed that the Ka-31 deal is unlikely to proceed soon. Consequently, Indian Navy officials have initiated the search for suitable alternatives to fulfil their airborne early warning craft needs.

Among the potential alternatives being considered is the Merlin HM Mk2 Helicopter, equipped with the CROWSNEST Airborne Early Warning and Control capability. Originally designed for the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, this helicopter offers intelligence, surveillance, and tracking capabilities. It has emerged as the sole alternative to the Kamov Ka-31 helicopters in its class, providing a potential solution to India’s requirement for effective airborne surveillance and control for INS Vikrant.

As Indian Navy officials explore these alternatives, the search for a suitable airborne early warning craft continues. The outcome of these deliberations will shape India’s future decisions and procurement strategies, ensuring that the country’s defence requirements are met efficiently and effectively.

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