Light Chopper Contest 3.0 Begins, Third Time Lucky For Jinxed Indian Effort?
After scrapping the Indian military’s effort to procure light helicopters for the second time in August, the third iteration of the now infamous Reconnaissance & Surveillance Helicopter (RSH) has just begun. On Friday October 31, the Indian Army published a fresh request for information (RFI) on behalf of itself and the Indian Air Force throwing open the jinxed contest for the third time now to ‘urgently replace the fleet of existing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters with suitable helicopters of modern design’.
The new procurement attempt (necessitated by the scrapping of the earlier one by the incoming government that balked at the proposition of buying nearly 200 helicopters straight off a foreign production line) looks to induct helicopters off an Indian production line. The Friday RFI says, ‘This Request for Information (RFI) is being issued with the aim of identifying probable INDIAN VENDORS (including an Indian company forming joint venture/ establishing production arrangement with OEM) who can provide the helicopters followed by licensed production/ indigenous manufacture in the country.’ (I didn’t upper-case ‘INDIAN VENDORS’, FYI.)
The official day/night mission profile of the new helicopters has been set out as: (a) Reconnaissance and Surveillance, including armed reconnaissance. (b) Direction of Artillery Fire. (c) Carry small body of troops/Quick Reaction Teams for special missions. (d) Aerial Photography. (e) Scout role in conjunction with Attack Helicopter. (f) Airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC), if required. (g) Casualty Evacuation. (h) NBC monitoring. (j) Platform for ESM, ECM and ECCM etc. (k) Provide dynamic response during aid to civil authorities.
Significantly, the RFI doesn’t stipulate number of engines required, but asks vendors to specify if they will field single or twin engine platforms. There is also nothing in the RFI to suggest that the earlier requirement of 197 helicopters has changed.
The operative portion of the RFI on production is this one: ‘It is envisaged that initial few quantities of helicopters will be supplied in fully formed condition. Further manufacture of helicopters by the vendor within the country in keeping with the requirement of 30% indigenous content is envisaged within 3-4 years after the contract is signed. Vendor to indicate specifically the earliest timeframe within which it can meet this requirement? If not, what is the earliest timeframe in which the vendor can commence delivering the helicopters manufactured within the country. Vendor to also indicate as to what is the annual production capability it can achieve in keeping with the above requirement?’