Airbus AS565 Panther Naval Helicopter

A ground-breaking ‘strategic partnership’ for the manufacture of Naval Utility Helicopters is being readied

Sikorsky, Airbus Industries and the Russian ROE are in the race for collaboration for the manufacture of 111 NUHs in India worth Rs 21,200 crore. The final decision on the strategic partnership will be taken during the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting later this month. The DAC is headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and includes the three service chiefs and other top officials. In recent months, the defence ministry had spoken of strategic partnerships. Now, an important step is being taken.

The coming DAC meeting is likely to be a big one for the Navy with the clearance of 10 P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft likely to come up once again. The Indian Navy has acquired this US-made plane and this Rs 22,500 crore deal will be a repeat order. The P-8I was on the DAC agenda on two occasions earlier in recent weeks but did not go through. But, sources said, there is an expectation that it will be third-time lucky for the P8I. The Navy has repeatedly said that with India's coastline being as long as it is, and to add to that, the island territories, Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the east and Lakshwadeep in the West, there is a need for additional maritime surveillance aircraft.

The Coast Guard is also looking for "aviation assets," primarily for search and rescue but also, for surveillance. The twin-engine heavy helicopter is on the agenda. Fourteen of them are to be bought, the total cost expected to be Rs 6,100 crore.

It's not just the Navy. On the agenda is the Self Propelled Air Defence Gun Missile System. This is a high-tech defensive weapon, and also highly mobile. The current requirement is five regiments, costing about Rs 5,000 crore. The range is expected to be 2500 metres for the gun and about 5 km for the missile.

The total value of the deals to be cleared is an astronomical Rs 60,000 crores.