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Indian Coast Guard needs helicopters pronto

2nd December 2019 - 01:00 GMT | by Neelam Mathews in Delhi

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On 28 November, India’s Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh, reapproved the procurement of 14 shore-based twin-engine heavy helicopters for the Indian Coast Guard (ICG). The tender had been withdrawn last year following nine extensions and a graft case.

The ICG, which termed the requirement as ‘immediate’, will use the 10t helicopters to prevent maritime terrorism, infiltration of terrorists by sea routes, and to conduct SAR operations.

An RfP for an open global tender will be released within 12 months, as stipulated in the Defence Procurement Policy.

The ICG is responsible for safety and security within India’s EEZ along the nation’s 7,500km coastline.

A senior ICG official told Shephard the ageing Chetak (Alouette III) helicopter, now manufactured under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), did not have the required range. It is presently being used by the ICG for SAR, casualty evacuation and aircrew training.

The official added that new threats result in fishing boats having to be identified and intercepted beyond 150nm from the coast. The problem became real after the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008, where the perpetrators had entered Indian territory on a fishing boat.

Likely contenders for the RfP are the Kamov Ka-31 (10 of which were approved in May for the Indian Navy), Airbus Helicopters H225M and Sikorsky S-92.

While OEMs are mandated to sign integrity pacts with each new tender, Leonardo continues to be barred from selling to India. HAL as yet does not have a heavy helicopter in its range.

Interestingly, a senior official told Shephard that if Sikorsky emerged as lowest bidder, it was likely the sale would be done under the US Foreign Military Sales programme.

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