After a contract signed between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Russian manufacturer yesterday, India can now look forward to an enhanced and upgraded set of submarine hunting helicopters.
Jugal R Purohit | Posted by Arpan Rai
New Delhi, July 30, 2016
Indian Navy to enhance the effectiveness of ten submarine hunting helicopters.
Contract signed between the Ministry of Defence and Russian manufacturer.
All ten copters will be modernized with upgraded sensors.
Enemy submarines lurking in waters of India's interest will soon find their stay to be uncomfortable.
Overcoming eight years of stalling and stagnation, Indian Navy (IN) has finally signed on the dotted line to enhance the effectiveness of its ten submarine hunting helicopters, the Russian Kamov-28.
India Today has learnt that after a personal intervention and push by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, a contract to that effect was signed yesterday between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Russian manufacturer Rosoboronexport. All ten copters will be modernized, sensors upgraded and delivered at regular intervals over the coming five years.
The total value of the contract is believed to be upwards of Rs 2000 crore. or 320 m $
The manufacturer, contract says, will amalgamate these copters with state of the art sensors and equipment it will procure from a slew of European firms. It was learnt that such an effort has been attempted for the very first time. Towards that, the helicopters will be first sent to Kumertau in Russia at the facility of Russian Helicopters where they will undergo a technical overhaul to enhance the aircraft's life and performance.
Once done, copters will be brought to Vizag, home of IN's Eastern Naval Command (ENC). At Vizag, naval air station Dega has been selected as the place where the sensors will be fitted and final assembly done. From that point, the copters will be available for the IN. Since Russia does not allow the import of European equipment, personnel from Russian helicopters will carry out the job in Vizag.
Of the ten Kamov-28 helicopters that were procured from the then Soviet Union, in the mid-80s, only four are in flying condition today. The remaining have been mothballed for spares, it was learnt.
"We are today making do with the technology of mid-80s, carrying out Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) roles to detect modern enemy submarines. The importance of this chopper can be understood by the fact that they can operate from the five Rajput class destroyers, the Talwar and Teg class of frigates and are designated to perform ASW role for aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya," said a source.
The biggest threat to India's maritime interests and its own fleet comes from enemy submarines. While every warship has a hull-mounted sonar for tracking submarines beneath, experts believe that few can match the potency of an ASW helicopter.
It is also the case that in the waters of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, due to composition and currents, hull-mounted sonar often lose their edge, a point where ASW helicopters with their dunking sonars come in handy. Another reason why helicopters are favoured is because while they can hunt a submarine, there is no way a submarine can detect, far less hunt down a chopper.
The other helicopter that the Navy has for ASW roles is the Seaking Mk.42B which is rapidly ageing and is stretched.
The case for the Mid Life Upgrade (MLU) of Kamov 28 was moved by the Navy in 2008, bids for which were opened in 2012. One of the reasons for the case staling was the VVIP helicopter scandal. As one of the firms which was to supply the radar, Selex Galileo, was a subsidiary of the tainted firm Finmeccanica, the MoD was careful about progressing.
Following long-winding, inter-ministerial consultations the MoD moved ahead as Selex Galileo was a sub contractor of the Rosobornexport. "The MoD has nothing to do with them. This is as per the guidelines which have been promulgated by the ministry," explained a source. In fact, the MoD even sought a clearance from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for progressing in this case and managed one.
WHAT DOES KAMOV 28 BRING TO THE NAVY?
Maximum height achieved in flight 5000m
Maximum range 900km
Maximum flight speed 250km/hr
Maximum take-off weight 12000kg
Can person search and attack roles and to do so, it can carry bombs, torpedos and missiles on board
NAVY'S HELICOPTER WOES
Navy suffers from a massive gap in its ASW capabilities. But that is not it.
There has been no sizeable acquisition in over a decade to boost its helicopter arm. With a requirement of over 100 helicopters across different categories, and yet going nowhere, the Navy's predicament is clear.
The Indian Navy had to get 16 choppers as a direct replacement for Seaking Mk.42A helicopters which came with the INS Viraat in 1987 and were decommissioned by the end of the century. Categorised as 'Multi Role Helicopter' acquisition, it is yet to take off.
Then there is the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) deal to replace the Chetaks, introduced to the Indian armed forces in the 60s, with choppers of 4.5 ton class. In addition, Indian Navy is also looking at Naval Multi Role helicopters of a larger tonnage. It is all hanging in balance, for now.
As a result of this, modern warships, often built at a staggering expense to the exchequer, are roaming the seas without vital helicopters on board. Many warships, which have two hangars on board are steaming past without even a single helicopter on board. "Overall availability of choppers is less than 20 per cent in the Navy".