Thursday, December 30, 2010

Indian Navy receives offer to upgrade troop carrier’s choppers

The Indian Navy has received an offer to renew and upgrade the six utility helicopters it acquired along with a large troop carrier from the US in 2007.
The utility and cargo version Sea King helicopters, acquired virtually free but for the cost of some immediate repairs, have been facing lack of spares and maintenance issues. The helicopters had been sold by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to the US Navy long back and were phased out after completing their requisite hours of flying operations.
Sikorsky has offered to renew and upgrade the helicopters the Indian Navy acquired along with USS Trenton, now renamed INS Jalshwa, in a $50 million deal.
Sikorsky’s India Managing Director, Air Vice Marshal (retd) A.J.S. Walia told India Strategic defence magazine ( that although the company had no role in the sale of the helicopters, or the deal for the ship, it was getting a bad name as it had built the choppers.
Accordingly, the company had made an offer to the Indian Navy to update and upgrade the helicopters to give then a last them 9,000 hours, which should make them as good as new. The Indian Navy can choose to change engines, shell, avionics or other systems even partially, and ‘we will cooperate fully and do our best,’ he said.
If he proposal is accepted, the Indian Navy can do a Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) or take the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route if it wants to. ‘We are comfortable either way,’ Walia said.
The US Navy had given the job of refurbishing the helicopters to a small company, which made them airworthy. But recently, even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India came down on the fact that the six helicopters were not properly operational.
Walia said that he has had some discussions with the Indian Navy on the helicopters.
While a decision has to come from the Indian Government and the navy, ‘Sikorsky is willing to assist in any respect from tip to tail to modernize the old helicopters, and reset their flying clock from zero to 9000,’ he said.
The $50 million India paid for the ship was mostly spent on refurbishing and repainting it. The vessel’s two onboard Phalanx guns, which can fire very hard, depleted uranium bullets at very high speed, were also repaired free by its manufacturer, Raytheon, in the hope that their demonstration would help the company sell these guns to the Indian Navy for its other ships.
INS Jalashwa, based in the Indian Navy’s Eastern Command port of Vishakhapatnam, was acquired after the Indian Navy realized during the 2004 Tsunami that while its ships could reach various countries to help them, they really could not deliver anything directly to their shores due to the debris scattered all over.
INS Jalashwa has a well deck, which can be flooded with water, from where it can deliver disaster relief material, or soldiers and tanks directly on shore.
The ship has given the Indian Navy this capability for the first time, and there are plans now to indigenously build at least four more such vessels.

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