Saturday, January 01, 2011

Indian Navy receives offer to upgrade Jalashwa's Sikorsky choppers


SOURCE INDIA STRATEGIC:- Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (SAC) has offered to renew and upgrade the six old Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King helicopters the Indian Navy acquired along with USS Trenton in 2007, now designated INS Jalshwa.

  The six utility and cargo version 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 Sikorsky to the US Navy long back and phased out after completing their due flying operations.
Sikorsky's India Managing Director, Air Vice Marshal A J S Walia (Retd) told India Strategic that although Sikorsky had no role in the sale of these old helicopters to the Indian Navy, or in the deal for the USS Trenton, then a US Navy decommissioned Landing Platform Dock (LPD) amphibious vessel, it was getting a bad name as the helicopters were once built by it.
Accordingly, the company had made an offer to the Indian Navy to update and upgrade the helicopters to 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, then the Indian Navy can do a Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), or even the Foreign Military Sales Program (FMS) if it wants to. "We are comfortable either way," he said.
India purchased the large, 30-storey ship for a small price of just US$ 50 million, an amount which was mostly spent on refurbishing and repainting it from the US Navy. The two onboard Phalanx guns, which can fire very hard, depleted uranium bullets at very 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.
The US Navy had given the job of refurbishing the helicopters to a smaller SME company, which made them airworthy. But recently, even the Comptroller General of India (CAG) came down on the fact that the six helicopters were not properly operational despite their requirement.
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 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 materials, 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.
AVM Walia said that he had some discussions with the Indian Navy in this regard.
While a decision has to come from the Indian Government and 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.

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