India is likely to sign a $ 2 billion plus deal for naval multi role helicopters (NMRH) through a direct government purchase from the US by the end of this year.
Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh has said that negotiations are proceeding and the contract could be finalized shortly. “The LOR (letter of request) and LOA (letter of acceptance) procedures and on and we should be ready by the end of the year,” the top officer said at the sidelines of a FICCI seminar in the capital.
LOR and LOA are part of the procedures for sale of military equipment on a government to government route with the US.
As reported first by ET, the proposal is to purchase 24 of the advanced MH 60 `Romeo’ choppers that can be deployed from warships. The direct purchase is the fastest way to add the capability to the Navy, rather than a competition that could take years to finalise.
The Navy considers these choppers extremely essential as their absence poses serious operational risks to warships at sea.
The last attempt to purchase these choppers was thwarted after nine years of efforts in 2016 after negotiations broke off with US manufacturer Sikorsky over differences in pricing. The Navy requires at least 123 of the Naval Multi Role Helicopters (NMRH) and had released a global request for information for the same in August 2017.
However, the proposal for 123 new choppers, has not progressed as fast as the Navy would have liked, leading to the consideration of the US offer for a direct government sale of the Romeo. The larger order is likely to be progressed as a Make in India project under the strategic partnership model of the defence ministry.
The navy is already processing an order for 111 of the smaller utility helicopters under this model.
The NMRH are required to replace the Sea King fleet. The Indian Navy has flagged helicopters as one of its most critical needs, besides minesweepers and submarines at several top level presentations before the government.