Project Alert: Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH)

Quantity: 111
Estimated Cost: Rs 21,738 Crores ($3.5 Billion)
RFI Issued: February 2019 
Current Status: RFP Awaited
Primary Users: Indian Navy

Brief: The procurement of 111 light Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) for the Indian Navy is to be the first project under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model. 

The program for procuring 111 NUHs worth Rs 21,738 Crores ($3.5 Billion), was initiated by the Indian Navy in February 2019 with the issuance of parallel Requests for Expression of Interest (EoI) to Indian companies and foreign OEMs.

An Open EoI was issued online inviting interest from Indian private companies wanting to be considered for selection as the Strategic Partner for production of helicopters.

A separate EoI was issued to four foreign OEMs – Russian Helicopters, Lockheed Martin- Sikorsky, Bell Helicopters and Airbus Helicopters.

The OEMs have been mandated to set up dedicated manufacturing line, including design, integration and manufacturing processes for NUH in India and make Indian Manufacturing Line as a global exclusive facility for the NUH platform being offered.

Notably, 95 helicopters out of 111 will be manufactured in India by the selected Indian Strategic Partner. The Navy has listed out six “must-have” technologies that the OEMs must transfer as part of the contract with 60 per cent indigenization and 95 helicopters to be manufactured in India.

These helicopters are to replace Chetak Helicopters for SAR, CASEVAC, LIMO, passenger roles, and torpedo drops.

The eight Indian companies which responded to the EoI include Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), Mahindra, Adani, Reliance, Bharat Forge and Laxmi Machine Works.

Besides, a joint venture set up by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Russian Helicopters and Rosoboronexport –  Indo-Russian Helicopters Limited (IRHL) – to manufacture the Kamov 226T light helicopter in India under an Indo-Russian inter-governmental agreement (IGA) – have also applied to be SPs.

An Indian Navy team have already visited the facilities of the Indian companies which have bid for selection as Strategic Partner from May 28 to June 10, 2021 for capability assessment. This is to decide the eligibility of Indian bid.

Competitors: Following are the foreign competitors in the fray:
• Airbus has offered two platforms – the H 145M and the Panther AS565 – on offer for manufacturing in partnership with Mahindra Defence.
• The American side has offered the Sikorsky S 76D
• Russia has offered the Kamov Ka 226T
• US helicopter manufacturer Bell and Korean aviation company KAI did not respond

As of now, there is a lack of consensus within the Ministry of Defence as to whether HAL should be made the strategic partner or private firms which has further delayed the issuance of the Request for Proposal (RFP) for 111 Naval Utility Helicopters under the strategic partnership model and thus the program remains grounded for now.

Meanwhile, India has signed a $2.6 billion deal in 2019 to buy 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters from Lockheed Martin.

Designed for hunting submarines as well as knocking out ships and conducting search-and-rescue operations at sea, the Lockheed Martin-built helicopters would replenish India’s aging fleet of British-made Sea King helicopters.

The multi-mission helicopters can detect, track and attack submarines and surface ships.

Further, the Navy in order to buy time has issued a RFI on April 23, 2021 for the lease of 24 NUH to foreign vendors for five years along with their ground equipment.

Click here to access the RFI to lease NUH:

“This lease will also include all maintenance support ashore, including Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) and training of air crew and maintenance crew during the term of the lease,” the navy said in the RFI documents.

As for the proposal for issuing the tenders for the 111 helicopters, it is stuck over the HAL’s bid to enter the fray through the backdoor, though its Dhruv proposal was rejected by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) three years ago.

The matter has been referred back to Indian Navy to consider the proposal of involving DPSUs.

As of now, an RFP is still awaited.

To Read the complete RFI Click:Click here to access the RFI for procurement of 111 NUH: