India issues RFP for 56 naval light utility helicopters

Singapore
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The Indian navy has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for 56 light utility helicopters to replace its fleet of Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Chetaks.

The move follows a request for information released in May 2010. It calls for aircraft with a maximum weight of 4,500kg (9,920lb), with bids due in January 2013.

The RFP, which calls for field trials in India, was issued to several major helicopter, firms including AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and Russian Helicopters, says an industry source.

The fact that the helicopter will be used for shipboard operations could limit the navy's choices in the competition, as the type will require folding rotor blades.

 credit eurocopter

Eurocopter

At the Farnborough air show in July, HAL told Flightglobal that the challenges and expense involved in modifying its Dhruv advanced light helicopter for shipborne operations would preclude the indigenous type from the competition.

The RFP foresees the helicopter undertaking a number of roles, including search and rescue, casualty evacuation, logistics support, observation and surveillance, and electronic intelligence. It will also be required to carry light torpedoes and depth charges for prosecuting undersea targets, as well as rockets and machine guns. It also calls for a major support and simulator package.

A strong contender for the requirement is likely to be the Eurocopter AS565 MB Naval Panther (above), a military variant of the popular Dauphin. Several nations use variants of the Dauphin in naval and coast guard operations. Another contender is likely to be the AgustaWestland AW139 (below).

 credit agustawestland

AgustaWestland

India has two other naval helicopter requirements. The NH Industries NH90 and Sikorksy S-70B Seahawk are competing for a 16-aircraft multi-role helicopter requirement. An industry source says a decision for this competition is imminent.

In June 2011, New Delhi issued a request for information for a 75-aircraft, naval multi-role helicopter requirement. This called for a large shipborne helicopter in the 9-12.5t class.