India has established a facility to repair the Navy’s Sea King helicopters, grounded because of age and unavailability of spare parts.
India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) in March began developing the dedicated repair facility, at a cost of more than $15 million, in Bangalore in technical collaboration with AgustaWestland Helicopters, said HAL Chairman Nalini Ranjan Mohanty. The facility is expected to be functional by year’s end.
Details of the technology transfer agreement with AgustaWestland were not provided, but sources said it covers availability of the most critical spares needed for the Sea Kings.
The grounded helicopters need gear boxes, rotor systems, transmission systems, sonars and avionics gear.
A Navy official said current efforts include the repair of only seven Sea Kings, while the Navy plans to replace 14 of the helicopters with another anti-submarine warfare helicopter.
Mohanty said, however, the Bangalore facility would be capable of overhauling the entire Sea King fleet. Mohanty said efforts are under way to acquire from Britain’s BAE SystemS and other Western companies the necessary parts for the Sea Kings.
Most of the 43 anti-submarine warfare Sea Kings purchased from the U.K. company Westland Helicopters about 20 years ago had to be grounded. Spare parts were unavailable following U.S. sanctions in 1999, which were lifted in September 2001.
“The present fleet of 32 Sea King helicopters has got very low serviceability due to nonavailability of spares affected by the U.S. sanctions, and efforts are being made to increase the flightworthiness and availability of the present fleet,” a Navy aviation official said.
The ineffectiveness of the Sea King fleet has severely crippled the Navy’s offshore surveillance capability, the official said. Mohanty said the facility also may be used to overhaul the additional anti-submarine warfare helicopters the Navy intends to procure to replace 14 Sea Kings.
An Indian Defence Ministry official said the ability to overhaul the Sea Kings is vital in view of Pakistan’s acquisition of French-made Agosta submarines and because of the heightened presence of China’s submarine force in the Indian Ocean region.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry is sending requests for proposals to replace the 14 Sea Kings to Eurocopter, Paris, for its Cougar model; AgustaWestland for its EH101; and to France’s NH Industries for the anti-submarine model of its NH90.