Bharat Forge, TATA, Mahindra And Adani want HAL Out Of Naval Helicopter Race For IN

Four Indian companies – Bharat Forge, Tata Aerospace and Defence, Mahindra Defence Systems and Adani Defence – are contending for the Make in India programme to manufacture 111 naval utility helicopters under the strategic partnership (SP) model in collaboration with a foreign technology provider.

The private sector wants the Indian Defense Ministry to bar Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) from a ₹21,000 crore plan to manufacture naval utility helicopters (NUH), saying that the state-owned company has an undue advantage as it has access to government-funded infrastructure and the ability to cross-subsidise the bid through other nominated orders.

The companies were responding to a question posed by the defence ministry in May on allowing HAL in the competition, which was reserved for the private sector as reported by Indian newspapers Economic Times. They said the monopoly of the state-owned enterprise needs to be broken and a level playing field is needed for all bidders.

The Royal Australian Navy’s MH-60R Romeo helicopter conducts functional testing of the newly fitted Airborne Low Frequency Sonar System (ALFS) off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. Indian Navy ordered 24 MH-60R advanced maritime helicopter.

As part of a re-evaluation in May, the defence ministry asked the contenders if the programme had export potential and raised the prospect of HAL being given a chance to be part of it.

HAL Running Behind Schedule

Sources have also told Indian media that a proposal has been floated to give HAL a chance to provide an indigenously developed naval version of the advanced light helicopter by developing a few prototypes for evaluation by the service in a three-year timeframe.

In response to the defence ministry’s queries, it’s learnt that the private sector competitors have pointed out that the only large aerospace company India has developed in over seven decades is HAL as it has been given nominated orders and that healthy competition can only be ensured by encouraging others as well.

Among the responses are suggestions that while HAL will remain a major helicopter manufacturer, a second line is needed in the private sector that can become part of the global supply chain and offer viable products for the export market as well.

The responses also pointed out that HAL already has an order book of ₹60,000 crore and is set to get another nominated order worth ₹39,000 crore for light combat aircraft (LCA), besides Kamov KA 226T choppers for the army, asserting that it’s already running at full capacity.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci) earlier wrote to the defence ministry against a “dilution of the strategic partnership model.” The letter said that the private sector has been struggling for orders despite building capacities in line with the Make in India plan and HAL as a competitor will make it a “non level playing field.”

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