Defence Helicopter

Singapore Airshow 2020: Indian Navy rotary training may migrate to light twins

6th February 2020 - 06:00 GMT | by KP Sanjeev Kumar in Mumbai

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When the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) replaces the Alouette, will basic training also migrate to light twins? This question was recently posed by Shephard to informed sources from the Indian Navy (IN). The picture that emerges is one of fait accompli rather than a decision arrived at after due thought.

The replacement of IN Alouettes (Chetak) with the NUH is at the RfP stage. In June 2019, three foreign OEMs and eight local companies answered with expressions of interest to supply 111 NUHs, including the Airbus Helicopters H145M and AS565 Panther, Sikorsky S-76D and Russian Helicopters Ka-226T.

When specifications for the NUH were finalised by the IN, two aspects were frozen after due process: the number of engines (two) and the landing gear (wheeled). Basic training, which may require repeated ‘touchdown auto-rotations’ and hands-on flying, was not foreseen in the NUH’s charter.

Naval sources confirm that the NUH, when inducted, would free up some Alouettes from the frontline, and these could be diverted to the training squadron. However, the IN’s one-sided romance with ageing Alouettes is an unlikely panacea for all future training.

In the long term, either the NUH will take on a basic training role, or training may shift to better-suited light singles, possibly under a ‘joint’ training system with the army and air force. Both are not easy choices.

Some commentators argue that the IN can ill afford another type/make at this stage, due to budgetary constraints and transition training costs.

In a series of tweets, RAdm Sudhir Pillai, a former flag officer of naval aviation, drew attention to the UK Royal Navy’s evolution from single-engine Gazelles to outsourced basic training on the H145.

Whether by design or default, basic rotary training in the IN is likely to slip under the NUH charter. Alternatively, the newly constituted Department of Military Affairs under the first Chief of Defence Staff may well rule in favour of a ‘joint helicopter training school’.

Both options will have to be examined closely when the IN comes to that pass, sources indicate.

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