Defence Ministry decides to allow private sector to develop military helicopters


In a major push to “Atmanirbhar Bharat” in military hardware sector, the Defence Ministry has decided to amend the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) manual to allow private sector to collaborate with an Indian Defence PSUs with a majority stake and manufacture the required weapon system. According to South Block officials, this collaboration will be tested in the development and manufacture of Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH), which will ultimately replace all Russian built Mi-17 and Mi-8 helicopters in the Indian military’s present inventory. The IMRH will have a 13 tons take-off weight and will perform with the Indian armed forces in air assault, air attack, anti-submarine, anti-ship, military transport and VVIP roles.

It is understood that Indian private sector companies have already shown their eagerness to participate in the project with the Defence Ministry telling them to start manufacturing in the next seven years. The French Safran has already signed an MoU with Indian HAL on July 8, 2022, to form a new joint venture company to develop, produce and support the IMRH engine including the naval variant. According to officials, the private sector companies will also be allowed to export 25 per cent of their production to third countries and generate foreign exchange for the country. The Indian Armed Forces has been told to purchase the developed IMRH which is stipulated to roll out in next seven years. The private sector companies have also sought an assurance from the Defence Ministry that the Indian armed forces should purchase the helicopter if the product is manufactured in the next five years by advancing timelines and saving money and man-hours.

The decision to allow the private sector to acquire 51 per cent stake and form a joint venture with Indian PSUs was taken as the latter were not being able to deliver in required time leading to cost overruns. This delay was leaving the Modi government with no options but to purchase the much-required machines via the tender or government-to-government route from other countries. While the IMRH is expected to roll out in the coming five to seven years, the Indian Navy is expected to get its first anti-submarine warfare Sirkorsky MH 60R Seahawk helicopters delivered in India by the end of this year. Although the first two to three helicopters have already been handed over to the Indian Navy for training purposes by San Diego Naval Station in the US, the remaining deliveries of 21 helicopters will begin soon as per the USD 2.3 billion February 2020 deal signed by both the governments.

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