July 7, 2012
With flight and technical evaluations complete for the Indian Navy’s bid for 16 multi-role helicopters for its sea and off-shore operations, the clearance from the Cabinet Committee of Security is awaited. The two final contenders are Sikorsky’s S-70B and the European consortium’s NH-90. Last year, India rejected Lockheed Martin’s request for consideration of its NH-60 under Foreign Military Sales.
A controversy may be brewing that will delay the much needed acquisition by at least another four years – having already being delayed by six years- and, given the rupee depreciation hike up costs further. Aerospace Diary learns with Sikorsky now having being given exemption from certain compliances it could not adhere to, will make the NH-90 more expensive, though its (NH-60) life cycle costs will be competitive, given that it is a newer machine. The Europeans are said to be looking for a waiver based on low requirements to enable them to furnish a lower bid.
A vernacular publication recently quoted a letter written to Defense Minister A. K. Antony by NHI’s Managing Director, D. Vaccari, who has claimed that Sikorsky’s S-70B helicopter could not have cleared the recently concluded field evaluation trials, at least, in eight specific areas, had the naval staff requirements (NSQR) been strictly examined and adhered to. It is not clear how compliant the NH-90 is.
This is once again raising the issue of lack of transparency vendors have oft been promised by the MoD. One vendor told Aerospace Diary, the bid documents are designed not to rush making decisions when the issue of waivers crop up. In the case of this tender, NH is believed to have said they would like to receive the same waiver based on low requirements permitted to Sikorsky, which would enable them to present a lower bid and be on the same page as far as L1 goes. An official at the ministry tells us, a letter to the navy from NHI remains unanswered- something one does not expect of a force known for its impeccable attitude.
Complaints against Sikorsky include a dipping zone that Sikorsky didn’t do. “They were allowed to carry the weight of the sonar radars instead,” says a military official. During the field trials, the NHI was required to demonstrate both internal and external tanks to show it was compliant. However, the Sikorsky flight manual confirmed only external auxiliary fuel tanks were available. Aerospace Diary could not confirm this.
"It will have to be an FA/16 versus a Raflae kind of argument," a military official tells Aerospace Diary.