New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) US-based Sikorsky, among the world's leading helicopter manufacturers, has offered to make military choppers in India.
Sikorsky's Executive Vice President for India and South Asia, Air Vice Marshal Arvind Jeet Singh Walia (retd), told India Strategic defence magazine (www.indiastrategic.in) that at present the offer was to make a naval variant of the famous Black Hawk, designated MH-70B Sea Hawk, if the Indian Navy opts to buy this aircraft.
The Indian Navy should have a requirement for more than 100 helicopters of this type, and if the Sea Hawk is chosen, there would be appreciable Transfer of Technology and manufacturing capability to India, subject of course to an agreement between the Indian and US Governments.
If selected, the MH-70B could be co-produced in India under what is called the Buy-and-Make category of the defence ministry's Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), he said.
At present, the navy has an RfP (Request for Proposals or tender) for 16 helicopters with an option for eight more twin-engine, 12.5 tonne category helicopters. But there are indications for nearly a 100 more, Walia said, adding: "The technical and financial evaluation process is on and a decision is due any time."
Pitted against the Sikorsky is a European consortium's NH-90, partnered by Italy's AgustaWestland (32 percent), European EADS Eurocopter (62.5 percent) and Dutch Stork Fokker (5.5 percent).
Notably, US companies cannot offer advanced and critical technologies to foreign countries but occasionally, the US state and defense departments give them nods to offer their systems on the understanding that in case of possible deals, their cases would be considered favorably and approvals accorded.
Significantly, several top Sikorsky executives have visited India in recent weeks, offering both civil and military aircraft.
Stephen B. Estill, vice president (Strategic Partnerships) for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (SAC), and Mick Maurer, president, Sikorsky Military Systems, were in India in February to meet Ratan Tata to seek collaborations in this regard with the Tata group.
Estill said that Sikorsky and Tatas were in discussions for military helicopters, and that a joint company would be set up as and when feasible.
The two groups already have a joint venture for civil helicopter production since 2010, and have started making cabins for the Sikorsky S-92 helicopters in India for civil and VIP versions. Seven cabins had been supplied since the venture started two years ago from a facility in Hyderabad.
"And the first machine with the Made-in-India cabin is just about to be given to a customer somewhere in the world," Estill said.
Gradually, the production would go up to three cabins a month, or 36 a year, by 2013 from the Indian facility, and the machines would be supplied globally from Asia to the Americas.
Walia said that although India itself had no order yet for the S-92, the Indian facility was playing a significant role in Sikorsky's global supply chain. This success could be replicated for military aircraft, but in this case, if there were orders from the Indian Navy to make the project viable in terms of investment and transfer of technology.
Walia said that the Sea Hawks can be used in several roles from anti submarine warfare (ASW) to anti-surface warfare (ASUW), light heliborne operations, search and rescue (SAR) missions and all-weather surveillance. The helicopter can be equipped with weapons and combat systems as required, and can go reasonably far away from its mother ship.
Notably, the Black Hawk has several multi-role variants for the US rmy, marines, navy and special forces. Hundereds of these helicopters have been supplied worldwide to various countries.
Gulshan Luthra writes on strategic affairs. He can be contacted at