Sikorsky Bids Twice for Indian Navy Helo
By Wendell Minnick
BANGALORE - Sikorsky is leaving nothing to chance in the bid for the Indian Navy's $1 billion Multi-Role Helicopter (MRH) program.
"We put in two bids," said Scott Pierce, Sikorsky vice president, Worldwide Sales – Asia, to meet the requirement for 16 helicopters to replace aging Sea King multi-role helicopters.
Sikorsky is offering the S-70B Seahawk as a commercial direct sale and the MH-60R as a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) under the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). "The MH-60R comes with U.S. government interaction," said Pierce.
Sikorsky feared new problems encountered over the end-user agreement now hanging up the Boeing P-8I deal would not be resolved quickly enough to successfully compete for the tender with just one platform.
The U.S. and India have been arguing over the end-user monitoring agreement, which dictates what types of U.S. arms can be sold to India. New Delhi and Washington are now in negotiations over settling the matter, said Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony.
AJS Walia, Sikorsky managing director, India and South Asia, said the "end-user certification is being addressed in India and in the U.S. and are dealing with the issue."
"Many companies are watching the P-8 deal to see how that is resolved," said Pierce.
Despite apprehension, Sikorsky is pushing forward into the Indian civil and military market. "India is one of the fastest markets in the world for helicopters," said Pierce.
There have also been problems for U.S. helicopter manufacturers over bids for India's tender for 22 attack helicopters. Bell and Boeing bowed out after India enforced a direct commercial sale. The Bell AH-1 Cobra and Boeing AH-64 Apache come under the control of the DSCA and are required to go through a lengthy FMS review process before release. Sikorsky's Pierce said they are still interested in bidding and are considering the armed Blackhawk as an option.
In 2008, Sikorsky sold the S-76 commercial helicopter to four customers in India and is partnering with an unidentified Indian company to build S-92 airframes.
"We are a couple of months away from making an announcement," said Walia. Sources suggest the company is Tatas.
Sikorsky also plans to create a customer service center for the S-76 and is now doing site surveys, said Pierce.
X2 Tech Sikorsky was also detailing its experimental X2 Technology Demonstrator to Aero India visitors.
Ashish Bagai, Sikorsky senior aerodynamicist, was like a proud father describing the aircraft that flies both like a helicopter and a prop-driven fixed wing aircraft.
"We jacked up the speed to 250 knots per hour," said Bagai.
Equipped with an auxiliary propeller in the rear, the aircraft has a radius of 110 nautical miles with a range of five hours making it very attractive to the military market.
The aircraft is clearly unique.
"It bridges the gap of high speed performance of a fixed wing aircraft and hover capability of a helicopter," he said. "It is based on a rigid coaxial system, not articulated."
"The first flight was last August, followed on by two additional flights last year," said Bagai. "We went up to 27 knots during the test. During the first three tests the auxiliary propeller was disconnected."
The aircraft is now being prepared for a test using its auxiliary propeller scheduled for late 2009.
Bagai said the new aircraft would have both military and commercial applications. This includes an attack, light tactical, utility, search-and-rescue, unmanned and passenger variant.
Besides what a normal helicopter is capable of, the X2 will have no in-flight transition, level body acceleration and deceleration, and improved range.
"It gives us something in hover and speed. Something most conventional helicopters can't do," he said.
It will have a take-off weight capacity of 12,000-16,000 pounds for the utility version.
However, the future the aircraft is uncertain. Despite its unique speed and maneuverability, the aircraft could end up in the museum.
"Once we hit 250 knots this year we'll make a decision on where to go with it. What the customer requirements will be will determine what direction we will go with the platform," Bagai said. "The helicopter pushes the envelope on helicopter speed and efficiency. It will be cheaper to operate than helicopters."