The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman accorded acceptance of necessity (AoN) for the procurement 111 naval utility helicopters (NUHs) worth Rs 21,738 crore for Indian Navy. DAC is Defence Ministry’s highest decision-making body on procurement.
AoN is first step of procurement of an defence equipment. After DAC gives AoN, request for proposal can be issued to firms, seeking their responses with technical and commercial bids. Before this step, Indian Navy had issued a request for information (RFI) for procurement of 111 NUHs.
It is first proposal under strategic partnership model to get approval which is considered as a major boost to defence manufacturing in country. Under strategic partnership model, foreign Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) ties up with a domestic strategic partner to manufacture weapon systems.
As part of proposal, 16 naval utility helicopters (NUHs) will be procured in fly away state from selected foreign OEM and remaining 95 will be made by Indian strategic partner in India. Firms, including Sikorsky, Bell and Airbus are likely contenders for this project and will have to respond to RFI with information on capabilities they have to manufacture these helicopters.
According to RFI issued by Indian Navy, these NUHs should be able to perform roles including search and rescue, anti-piracy, disaster relief, surveillance and medical evacuation. This will involve ferrying troops and supplies to warships. The helicopters will also be submarine hunters and also have torpedoes.
Active towed array sonar systems
DAC has also accorded AoN for procurement of 9 active towed array sonar systems (advanced) for Indian Navy at an estimated cost of Rs 450 crore. This sonar system will be fitted on modern naval vessels and will enhance their submarine detection capabilities. This is especially important in light of China planning to increase its submarine fleet in the coming years and its growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean.