By Sangeeta Saxena
New Delhi. 03 December 2021. The wait has been long but the hope is still strong that the Indian Navy will take a decision on fulfilling it’s need of NUH . It may be recalled that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for the 111 NUHs in the month of October 2017. But this year saw a changed need when the Ministry of Defence, Government of India showed its intent to lease 24 helicopters with ground support equipment for five years.
European aircraft major Airbus has responded to this RFI and offered its AS565MBe Panther helicopter. Panther will also be a front runner in the manufacturing under the Strategic Partnership model of 111 NUH need of the Indian Navy. More than 250 helicopters in the Panther/Dauphin family are in operation with more than 20 countries, including the US Coast Guard’s fleet of around 100 MH-65s. It is fully qualified to operate from over 100 classes of NATO ships, and complies with NATO standardisation agreements (STANAGs) regarding tie-down fittings, fuel hoses and DC/AC electrical connectors.
In Panther Airbus has a helicopter with mission capabilities which include anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface unit warfare, maritime surveillance, search and rescue, special operations , patrol, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy but its unique selling proposition are its two torpedoes. Panther carries two torpedoes with the capability to launch one above and one below the thermocline which is the greatest advantage it has against the competitors in the NUH bid whether to be procured on lease or manufacture under the Strategic Partnership model.
And Panther is not a new machine to the Indians. It may be recalled that India is already the largest Single User of the Dauphin, which is the civil variant of the Panther. About a hundred Dauphins in India are flying in a variety of sectors, of which, ofcourse, Pawan Hans Ltd has been a major operator.
“The Indian Navy protects the nation’s maritime borders by operating from above, on and under the surface of the seas and oceans. Not only does the Navy protect our waters but also performs humanitarian missions, rescue and evacuation operations and even supports disaster relief. Airbus has the perfect portfolio of products and solutions to support the operational needs of the India Navy. For instance, the AS565MBe naval version of Airbus’ all-weather, multi-role Panther helicopter family perfectly complements the mission requirements of the Navy. They are designed for operation from ship decks, offshore locations, and land-based sites. It is made for a range of naval and coast guard missions such as maritime surveillance, search and rescue, casualty evacuation, offshore patrol, and counterterrorism. Armed forces worldwide place their trust in Airbus products, making Airbus one of the world’s largest suppliers of advanced military helicopters. Some 250 Helicopters in the Panther/ Dauphin family are operated by maritime customers in more than 20 countries, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s fleet of some 100 MH-65s,” informed Airbus spokesperson in an exclusive interaction with ADU.
The AS565 MBe is used on ships and from land bases, capable of carrying a variety of weapons. In addition to its own intercept and attack capabilities, it will be a “force multiplier” by providing over-the-horizon surface awareness and targeting to surface ships. It has an endurance of more than four hours at loiter speed and the AS565 MBe is an affordable alternative to other light/medium helicopters that are limited in their ability to perform its diverse range of naval missions. The helicopter’s use of a hydraulically-activated harpoon with deck-lock securing enables the AS565 MBe to land and take off from ship decks regardless of the wind direction and this makes the helicopter just the choice for India’s needs keeping in mind the rough seas the Indian Navy has to operate in.
The basic operating and maximum take-off weights of AS565 MBe are 2,406kg and 4,500kg respectively. The helicopter has a cargo hook capacity of 907kg, fuel capacity of 1,135l and sling load carrying capacity of 1,600kg. The helicopter features a glass cockpit equipped with a four-axis autopilot with two Rockwell Collins primary flight multi-functional displays, two MFD 255 navigational displays, one large mission display, and one dual vehicle and engine management display to provide flight information to the crew, featuring pilot and co-pilot seats with four-point shoulder harness. It has the capacity to carry 2pilots and 10 soldiers.
In the current scenario of turbulent geo-political waters, the AS565 MBe is highly effective in anti-surface unit warfare missions (ASuW), including over-the-horizon targeting (OTHT) for ships with long-range anti-ship missiles. By acting as the ship’s principal weapon system, it can search, classify, shadow and strike with precision well beyond the horizon. At Best Endurance Speed (VBE) the aircraft has a loiter time in excess of four hours.
Airbus Panther will also be very easy to maintain as the modular mechanical assembly design, fiberglass Starflex rotor heads, composite tail rotor blades and airframe and 100-percent composite Fenestron contribute to significant reductions in maintenance time and costs.
Airbus has been very optimistic that its Panther will be India’s choice for the NUH. And why not? The Panther is the right product in the right moment and brings with it an opportunity to develop a facility here and to continue to produce those aircraft for the global market in India. India has an exciting ambition with ‘Make-in-India’ and Atmanirbhar Bharat and Airbus has been and will be a part of it.