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By Bulbul Singh

22 Feb 11. The United States is likely to take a hit in defence supplies to India after Indian defence planners decision to go slow on buying weaponry via FMS. The latest offer by the United States to sell its MH-60 Romeo helicopter through FMS to the Indian Navy has been rejected and the competition will go ahead.

Sources in the Indian defence ministry said, “Purchases on government-to-government basis or the FMS route are becoming very expensive and will henceforth be discouraged.” adding that, “Weaponry and equipment bought under FMS has very high priced maintenance packages.”

In the latest controversy, the Indian Defence Ministry is on the defensive after leaked trial reports on the ULH guns sought to be bought under FMS from BAE’s U.S. subsidiary is casting a shadow on the purchase program. Last month, select copies of the trial report of the BAE’s ULH were circulated in the public domain which said that the gun had failed on several counts in the trials.

The Indian government has not accepted the U.S. offer of the MH-60 Romeo Multi-role helicopters submitted to the Indian defence ministry last month and has instead decided to go ahead with a competition for the contract.

The Indian Navy is going ahead with trials of two multi-role helicopters (MRH), the Sikorsky S-70 Bravo and the European NH-90.

India’s Navy currently uses Kamov Ka-28, Ka-31 AEW, and AgustaWestland Sea King helicopters

While tenders were floated to several manufacturers around the world, including AgustaWestland, EADS and Sikorsky, only two firms responded and are in competition. The RFP for the 16 MRH worth $1bn was issued in August 2008 and since the commercial bids are valid for two years only, they will be renewed and the bidders will submit their fresh bids. “The Indian Navy will now pursue the Flight Evaluation Trials for the two contenders,” said sources.

Once the contract is decided and awarded, the Indian Navy would get the delivery of the MRH within 46 months in three phases and there would be an option of placing follow-on orders for another 44 MRH helicopters.

The MRH primary role would be anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, while its secondary role would include search and rescue, cargo carrying and casualty evacuation.

One of the objectives of the Indian Navy requirement for MRH is to replace its ageing Sea King fleet. The strength of the original 40-odd Sea King choppers in the navy’s air wing has now dwindled to about 30 due to age.

Earlier, the RFP for the 16 MRH was initially issued in early 2006, but the tenders were cancelled two years later and reissued in September 2008.

FMS Beneficiary

India is to buy 10 Boeing C-17s valued at over $5bn, including the supply of spare engines via FMS.

In September 2010 India placed an order with Boeing to buy four P8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft (LRMR) for over $1bn in addition to 12 LRMRs purchased in January 2009 for $2.1bn. In addition India is negotiating to procure 145 ULHs via FMS.

Indian Navy Helicopters

The Indian Navy is acquiring five Kamov-31 helicopters from Russia. The helicopters will add to the existing fleet of nine Kamov-31s procured between 2003-5 for AEW roles. Using AEW&C aircraft on aircraft carriers will help in expanding the area under surveillance near the area of their deployment, they added. Currently India’s sole aircraft carrier INS Viraat and two stealth warships have Kamov-31s.

Costing around $20m each, the Kamov-31 will have a capability to track up to 40 targets on ground and air simultaneously with its radar.

The Kamov-31s will bolster the Navy’s capabilities to detect airborne and surface-based maritime threats. The helicopter can considerably increase combat mission efficiency of the Indian Navy by providing them with timely information about the actions of the ships and aircraft of the enemy.

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