Indian Navy Drops HAL, Reliance from Helicopter Bid

Indian Navy

New Delhi: The Indian Navy has kept out the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and private firm Reliance Defence from the $3 billion Make in India programme to build 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUHs) under the Strategic Partnership Model.

Public Sector giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and its joint venture with Russian Helicopters, India-Russia Helicopters Limited (IRHL) have been dropped from the final shortlist of Indian Strategic Partnership hopefuls, sources said.

The Indian companies on the shortlist are Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), Mahindra Defence, Adani Aerospace & Defence and Bharat Forge.

The shortlist of both Indian and foreign companies is likely to come up for final approval before the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) at its meeting scheduled for November 28, it is learnt.

All the foreign OEMs which responded to the Expression of Interest (EoI) as technology providers to the Indian Strategic Partner earlier this year have made the shortlist.

These include Airbus Helicopters – which is fielding the AS565 MBe Panther and H145M, Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky for the S-76D and Russian Helicopters for the Ka-226T.

The tender for this programme – the first under the ambitious Strategic Partnership Model – is likely to be issued to the four shortlisted Indian companies in the first half of 2020.

Under the SP Model, a shortlisted Indian company can submit only one bid in partnership with a foreign OEM. But a foreign OEM can tie-up with multiple Indian partners.

Airbus and Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky have declared partnerships with Mahindra and TASL respectively while Russian Helicopters is learnt to have arrived at a “gentleman’s handshake” agreement with Adani.

The big question is whether Airbus will field both the AS565 MBe Panther and the H145M. If it does, this could open doors for a tie-up with Bharat Forge, which could complete the line-up.

The Indian companies have been shortlisted by the Indian Navy with technical advice by SBI Caps on the basis of Financial Gates, Technical Gates and Segment-Specific Gates.

The tender will spell out details on the Make in India plan and the trial methodology. The Indian Navy is learnt to be seeking 40 per cent indigenous content across the programme.

The trials of the shortlisted helicopters will take place in the “green configuration” as per existing features. The company finally selected will require changes as per the requirement of the Indian Navy. For instance, of the four helicopters in the fray, only the Airbus AS565 MBe has an existing military variant.