With the ministry of defense (MoD) poised to sanction on Friday a Rs 21,738 crore project to build 111 naval utility helicopters (NUH) in an Indian private sector firm, an MoD expert has suggested the project be scrapped. The MoD and the navy want the NUH to be a foreign helicopter, built through the “strategic partner” (SP) model. This involves selecting a deep-pocketed Indian private firm as the SP, which will build the helicopters in India using technology supplied by a separately selected foreign “original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
However, former integrated defence staff chief, Vice Admiral Raman Puri (retired), who the department of defence production (DDP) has appointed as a consultant, has advised against inducting a foreign helicopter as NUH, when defence public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is in a position to supply a naval version of its indigenous Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH).
Puri has recommended the indigenous Dhruv chopper over a foreign design, citing Para 23 of Chapter II of the Defence Procurement Policy of 2016 (DPP-2016), which states: “Preference will be given to indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence equipment. Therefore, whenever the required arms, ammunition and equipment are possible to be made by Indian industry, within the time lines required by the services, the procurement will be made from Indian sources.”
On November 19, the MoD asked HAL for its comments. HAL has replied that it is “generally in agreement with the viewpoints provided by the consultant.”
Puri also pointed out that Para 23 states: “Accordingly the [MoD’s] categorisation committee, while considering categorisation under the DPP will follow a preferred order of categorisation,” in which “Buy (Indian – IDDM)” is top priority.