The defence acquisition council (DAC) has approved funding for the purchase of 111 multi-utility helicopters for the Indian Navy worth $3.2 billion, news agencies quoting top officials reported.
The DAC accorded its ‘acceptance of necessity’ (AoN) on Tuesday formally allowing the ministry of defence to release a global tender for the five-tonne class helicopters. US, European and Russian rivals are expected to compete by stitching up alliances with Indian firms under the government’s ‘strategic partnership’ model.
Some 16 of the choppers would be bought in flyaway condition from a foreign military contractor, and the remaining 95 will be built here in partnership with an Indian firm.
The choppers will be used for attack missions, search and rescue, surveillance operations and medical evacuation.
A spokesperson for the Indian navy said on Twitter the new aircrafts were a huge step toward addressing a “critical void of helicopters” for the naval fleet, which currently uses the French-designed Chetak model.
The Indian MoD had issued a Request for Information (RFI) in August this year seeking details of a naval utility helicopter (NUH).
The twin-engine helicopter, meant to be flown by two pilots, will have wheeled landing gear and blade-fold capability. India wants the choppers built in the country to have 40% indigenous content.
Prominent contenders for the program include Russian Helicopters, Airbus Helicopters, Sikorsky and Bell.