Providing a major boost to the maritime security capabilities of the Navy and Coast Guard, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cleared a proposal worth around `8,000 crore for acquiring 32 made in India ALH Dhruv helicopters to be built by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
"In a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the proposal to acquire these choppers meant for coastal and maritime security worth around `8,000 crore was given clearance," Defence Ministry sources told MAILTODAY.
Of the 32 choppers to be built by the HAL, 16 each would be shared by the two services. "The project will be under the make in India programme being spearheaded by the Prime Minister himself and state-owned HAL would not only provide the helicopters but also develop the infrastructure for operations of these helicopters in both the services," the sources said.
Incidentally, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) clearance for the project had also come in 2014 when Arun Jaitley was given the charge of Defence Ministry for the first time and the final approval has also come at a time when he is holding the office after Manohar Parrikar's departure to Goa.
At the moment, the Indian Navy has deployed its fleet of the ALH Dhruv helicopters in Kochi at its base INS Garuda but has now plans HAL to develop base for operations of 32 copters of deploying the fresh fleet at different bases across the coast line.
The Coast Guard has these twin-engine helicopters at its different bases for carrying out search and rescue and coastal surveillance missions. "The Navy is also planning to equip the choppers with some low frequency SONARs which would be developed by the force with the help of an advanced DRDO laboratory," the sources said.
After the signing of the contract, the forces are scheduled to get their first machine in the year 2020 and the last helicopter is scheduled to be provided to them by 2022, the sources said. The ALH is being employed for a variety of missions including advanced search and rescue, special heli-borne, armed patrol, VVIP ferrying and transport operations by the Navy.
The 16 helicopters being provided to the Navy would help it in meeting some of the operational gaps created due to the lack of new helicopters as projects have either been retracted or are stuck at different levels.
The Navy requires over 145 multirole helicopters (MRHs) with antisubmarine warfare capabilities, without which its warships are virtually defenceless against enemy submarines, and 110 twin-engine naval light utility helicopters (NUHs) to replace obsolete singleengine Chetaks.
India is one of the largest importers of arms and military platforms globally. The government has been focusing significantly on promoting defence indigenisation by taking a slew of reform initiatives including liberalising FDI in defence sector.
In assosiation with Mail Today Bureau