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Indian Navy cries for helicopters

New Delhi, July 19 (): Indian Navy is operating many warships without helicopters, a perfect recipe for a disaster if the attack comes from the sea.

Arun Jaitley who chaired the first meeting of the defence forces was told about the pathetic state of Indian Navy and the coast guard. Indian Navy has only 20 % of its helicopter requirements. Three new frigates were added to existing three and they have three helicopters only. There are five destroyers called Rajput class ships and they share a single helicopter.

After decommissioning of Seaking 42 helicopters, it was to get 16 Multi-role helicopters but so far it has not happened. Indian Navy had hoped to get Multi-role helicopter (MRH) as replacement for Chetaks that it bought in 60s. It needs a Naval utility helicopter too.

Indian Navy shortlisted two sellers of MRH and one of them is linked to blacklisted Finmeccanica, the company of Agusta Westland that is involved in a pay off scam.

Indian Coast Guard has to patrol 200 nautical miles of coast to counter smuggling, marine wealth poaching and sea pirates. It does not have a single ship with a helicopter on board. It has 20 ageing Chetak helicopters along with Advanced Light helicopters numbering two, stationed on Porabandar where India shares sea border with Pakistan.

To top it, coast guard gifted a helicopter to Maldives as a goodwill gesture. Coast guard has put a shopping list of 16 Dhruv Mark 111 ALH and European and American models of 1410 tonnes plus. It was the coast guard helicopter that tracked down the ship that the Mumbai attackers had hijacked to reach the city.

At present, the coast guard is operating the single engine helicopter defying DGCA rules that it should not fly over sea. The Indian Navy top brass says that the age-old procedures are a major hurdle to purchase and many a project fell through as it did not meet the standards. Fear of a scam too made the ministry sit on purchases for a decade.