August 29, 2015

Navy Wants 110 NUHs, IAF Needs 48 Mi-17s, 14 Akash Units - DAC Meet Ends Abruptly

India's Navy has moved a proposal before the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) for buying 110 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUHs) at a cost of over Rs.15,000 crore ($2.3 billion), while the Air Force wants to buy 48 Russian-origin Mi-17V5 medium lift cargo choppers for Rs.6,700 crore ($1.1 Billion) and 14 firing units of Akash surface-to-air missiles for seven more of its regiments.
Interestingly, the Navy proposal for the NUHs is said to be "better than Make-in-India". About 50 per cent of the procurement of these helicopters are to be executed through the indigenous route, with an Indian entity being the lead agency, with foreign collaboration, according to Defense Ministry officials.
In what turned out to be a damp squib for the armed forces and the industry, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar abruptly terminated the meeting that began at 4 p.m., stating that he had to leave immediately. But later reports suggested that he took a 7 p.m. flight back to Goa to visit home, raising many eye-brows.
The DAC did take up some of the items on its 25-point agenda for a decision and indeed some decisions were taken. But, official explained, till the time the meet reconvenes and all the items on the agenda are taken up and decided upon, the minutes of the meeting wouldn't be ready or made public.
Defense Ministry officials, though, said the DAC will reconvene on Sept.1, 2015 to complete the meet's agenda.
Here are the key items that were on DAC's agenda:
Navy's Seeks Approval For NUH Buy
The Navy plans to get the NUHs under the 'Buy and Make India' route, with some imports off-the-shelf, and the rest being built in India under a Technology Transfer. "How many would be done off-the-shelf is yet to be decided," Ministry officials said.
The DAC is to now give its nod for the Acceptance of Necessary (AoN) and the next step would be to issue the Request for Proposals (RFPs) to the Indian companies interested in the project, Defense Ministry sources said.
Given the kind of line up for aerospace manufacturing in the country, the industries interested in the project are Anil Ambani's Reliance defense vertical, Tata's aerospace venture, Larsen and Toubro (L&T), Bharat Forge and Mahindra.
These firms have responded to the Request for Information (RFI) with proposals for joint ventures with foreign helicopter manufacturers such as for Airbus Helicopter's AS565 and AgustaWestland's AW-109. See Arming India's earlier report on AgustaWestland HERE.
Chetaks From HAL As Interim Arrangement
The Navy has also sought a green signal from the DAC for buying eight Chetak utility helicopters from HAL. These helicopters would be used for air operations from on-board warships and for shore-to-ship operations, officials said. These helicopters will only plug a gap in the air fleet of the Navy, but the ultimate solutions are the NUHs. The Navy had first issued a RFI for the NUHs in 2010 and followed it up with another recently under the Defense Procurement Procedure-2013 norms. The RFI was to find a twin-engined helicopter of modern air frame design and fully integrated advanced avionics, to replace Navy's existing fleet of Chetak helicopters, which were inducted 40 years ago.
The helicopters the Navy want should have twin-controls for both the pilots. These would be used to carry out search and rescue, casualty evacuation, observation and surveillance, and limited electronic intelligence gathering. The choppers should have the capability to carry out anti-submarine warfare attack with torpedoes and depth charges besides anti-terrorism and anti-piracy roles.
The twin-engine requirement is to ensure more survivability for the crew while flying over the maritime zone, considering the accidents that have occurred involving the naval utility choppers in the past. The helicopters should be capable of operating from small decks and larger decks (up to aircraft carrier) in adverse weather by day and night, apart from snow-covered surface, sleet, sand, water and slush.
Selection Panel's Report On Shipyards For P75I Submarines
The DAC was to open the report of a Ministry-appointed committee that assessed the capabilities of India's seven key shipyards to see which ones had the capability to build the Navy's second line of hi-tech conventional submarines,officials said.
The committee was named in October 2014 under then Defense Production Secretary G.Mohan Kumar, who has since been elevated as Defense Secretary.
After opening the report and reviewing the contents, the DAC would give its nod for issuing RFP to select shipyards that the committee felt had the necessary facilities, financial strength and capabilities to build the submarines, which are envisaged to have the modern Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system on board.
The DAC had in October 2014 decided to go ahead with Project 75I to build six submarines, estimated to be worth Rs.50,000 crore ($7.5 billion at present exchange rate). The shipyards that were considered for the project by the committee were the public sector Mazagon Docks, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Goa Shipyard, Hindustan Shipyard, and Cochin Shipyard, and the private yards, Pipavav and L&T.
The committee had been given six weeks to do its assessment and to prepare its report. The report was submitted to the ministry earlier this year with recommendations. India's much-depleted submarine fleet strength badly need to augment itself with more conventional submarines. That's a refrain we have heard for a decade now.
Air Force To Augment Cargo Chopper Fleet
The IAF will seek an AoN from the DAC for augmenting its 130-helicopter Mi-17V5 fleet for medium lift cargo capability. The Russian choppers have now become the work horse of the IAF's cargo helicopter fleet and the new additions will only reinforce this growing role for the platform.
This deal is likely to bring with it a 30 per cent offset, a clause in the Defense Procurement Procedure-2013 under which a winning foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer in an Indian arms acquisition program would have to plough-back at least 30 per cent of the contract amount in the Indian defense, aerospace and homeland security industry.
The Mi-17V5 choppers are the replacement for the aging Mi-8 choppers in the IAF fleet. Some of the new platforms are already diverted since last year to be used by the Air HQ communications squadron that flies the Indian President and Prime Minister. An earlier deal for 12 AgustaWestland's AW-101 VIP choppers had been terminated in January 2014, over a CBI probe into allegations of bribery.
Under the new Mi-17V5 deal, the Air Force is also likely to get maintenance facilities for the helicopters established in India.
Akash Missiles To Boost Air Defense Capability
The other Air Force proposal is to buy 14 firing units of the indigenous Akash surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) from Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to arm its seven air defense squadrons, according to Ministry officials. The DAC will considering approvals of Acceptance of Necessity for buying the Akash SAMs for Rs.4,500 crore ($680 million).
The BEL makes the Akash missiles as the lead integrator for the IAF, with contribution from another public sector Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) and HAL and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), and private sector Tata SED and L&T, all infusing about 90 per cent domestic content.
Of the eight squadrons of DRDO-developed Akash on order, the IAF inducted its first squadron at an event at the Gwalior air force base in early July this year, in the presence of Parrikar and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha. (See Image)
SRE Radars For Air Force Air Bases
The other proposal from the Air Force is to buy Surveillance Radar Element (SRE) S-band radars suitable for terminal control applications for its new air bases, mostly in eastern part of the country.
The DAC is to give its nod for the AoN for these radars procurement at a cost of Rs.228 crore ($35 million). The tender for the radars will be issued soon, after the DAC approval.
These radars are to be positioned at air bases such as Panagarh in West Bengal, which will headquarter the Indian Army's China-specific Mountain Strike Corps. Panagarh will also be the second base for the Lockheed Marin C-130J special operations aircraft fleet. The other air bases to get the radars are Purnia in West Bengal, Bihta in Bihar and Avantipur in Jammu and Kashmir.
Army Looks At Tank Trawls and Short-Span Bridges
The proposals from the land forces of the country before the DAC for AoN approval are purchase of 102 quantities of 10-meter short-span bridges and 176 units trawls for T-72 and T-90 tanks. 


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