The Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has officially issued a Request for Information (RFI) for over 230 new helicopters for the Indian Navy this week. The new RFI constitutes one of the biggest global tenders issued for military helicopters recently.
In detail, the Indian Navy is interested in procuring 123 naval multi-role helicopters (NMRH) with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, and 111 armed light naval utility helicopters (NUH). The total value of the two contracts is estimated at over $10 billion.
Airbus has been proposing the Panther helicopter for the NUH programme. AS565 MBe, also known as the Panther, is the state-of-the-art multi-role helicopter that was designed for a multitude of naval and coast guard missions such as maritime surveillance, search and rescue, casualty evacuation, offshore patrolling and counter-terrorism.
The AS565 MBe is powered by two Safran Arriel 2N turboshaft engines for reliable performance in high and hot conditions. It features modern cockpit avionics that include an automatic flight control system (AFCS) and flight management system.
AS565 MBe is highly effective in anti-surface unit warfare missions (ASuW), including over-the-horizon targeting (OTHT) for ships with long-range anti-ship missiles. By acting as the ship’s principal weapon system, it can search, classify, shadow and strike with precision well beyond the horizon. At Best Endurance Speed (VBE) the aircraft has a loiter time in excess of four hours.
The helicopter’s use of a hydraulically-activated harpoon with deck-lock securing enables the AS565 MBe to land and take off from ship decks regardless of the wind direction and this makes the helicopter just the choice for India’s needs keeping in mind the rough seas the Indian Navy has to operate in
AS565 MBe Panther will also be very easy to maintain as the modular mechanical assembly design, fiberglass Starflex rotor heads, composite tail rotor blades and airframe and 100-percent composite Fenestron contribute to significant reductions in maintenance time and costs, he added.
The helicopter performs a wide variety of roles. In its anti-surface unit warfare role, the AS565 MBe is highly effective in warfare missions, including over-the-horizon targeting for ships with long-range anti-ship missiles. By acting as the ship’s principal weapon system it can search, classify, shadow and strike with precision with stable hovering capabilities. In its anti-submarine warfare avatar, with an endurance of four hours and its capability to carry up to two torpedoes / Depth Charges, the AS565 MBe significantly multiples a surface ship’s ability to conduct Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) missions
The NMRH are being procured particularly to enhance the Navys anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities.The Navy has been pressing the government to procure new utility and multi-role helicopters to add teeth to its existing capability and replace its ageing fleet of choppers but the procurement process has seen years of delay.
Airbus has been proposing the Panther helicopter for the NUH programme. The parts for the Airbus Helicopter and Mahindra contract will be produced at the Mahindra facility in Bengaluru, and shipped directly to the Airbus Helicopter production line in Marignane, France, where they would be integrated with the rest of the airframe assembly, forming a critical part of the Panthers sold worldwide.
The deal has ensured that Mahindra Aerostructures became the first Indian company to receive a direct manufacturing contract from Airbus Helicopters as a Tier-1 supplier. The Indian firm is expected to gradually emerge as the global single source supplier to Airbus Helicopters for these parts.