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India rejects direct purchase of MH-60s

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (UPI) Feb 24, 2011
India will continue with an open tender to buy multi-role helicopters after pulling out of a direct foreign military sale purchase of 16 Sikorsky MH-60 aircraft.

With the rejection of the U.S. Navy's offer of the MH-60s under a direct sale route, India's Ministry of Defense will choose between the two bidding companies that answered an open tender in 2008.

The two helicopters that will take part in field evaluation trials expected to start in March are the Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk and the NHIndustries NH90.

The winning helicopter will replace the Indian navy's aging fleet of Sikorsky Sea King helicopters first inducted in 1970. The navy had around 40 Sea Kings but 10 have been lost in accidents.

The helicopter's primary role will be anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, with secondary roles of search and rescue, cargo carrying and casualty evacuation.

The first helicopters must be supplied within 46 months of announcement of the winning company and the navy has an option for another 44 aircraft.

In early 2007, India became the first country to be offered the MH-60 Romeo, the U.S. Navy's newest multi-mission helicopter and a multi-company production.

Five companies make up Team Romeo. Sikorsky manufactures the MH-60R, Lockheed Martin provides integrated mission systems and cockpit and General Electric supplies engines. Forward-looking infrared and acoustic sensors are from Raytheon and CAE provides pilot training simulators.

Sikorsky, part of United Technologies Co., and mission systems integrator Lockheed Martin are under a five-year contract to deliver 139 Romeos through 2013 to the U.S. Navy, which is expected to buy 300 Romeos through 2018.

Lockheed Martin said the MH-60 Romeo would have been "a proven, low-risk solution that will enable the Indian navy to leverage the U.S. Navy's $700 million investment in mission systems and pre-planned product improvements through 2015."

Sikorsky remains in the running for the contract with its S-70 Black Hawk, which is pitted against the NHI NH90, a medium-sized, twin-engine helicopter manufactured by NHIndustries in Europe. The first NH90 flew in December 1995 and deliveries began in 2006.

Primary users of the NH90 are the air forces of Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

NHIndustries was set up in 1992. Eurocopter of France and Germany has a 62.5 percent stake in the NHI. AgustaWestland of Italy has a 32 percent stake and Stork Fokker Aerospace of the Netherlands holds 5.5 percent. NHI was established specifically as the prime contractor to design, develop and market the NH90 and its variants.

In February 2010, Eurocopter announced its intention to bid for more major helicopter contracts with the Indian military that could be worth up to $8 billion.

As part of its increased drive into the country's helicopter market Eurocopter will set up a maintenance, repair and overhaul center for its Dauphin helicopter. The center will be near either Mumbai or New Delhi and be a joint venture with India's state-run Pawan Hans Helicopters.

Eurocopter is the helicopter manufacturing division of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., EADS. Eurocopter has around 35 percent of India's civilian helicopter market, Rainer Farid, Eurocopter vice president for sales and customers relation in southern Asia, said last year during the biennial defense Defexpo exhibition in New Delhi.

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