AFTER MANY years of storage and cannibalisation, seven Indian Navy Sea King Mk 42Bs are to be returned to service following the award of a contract to AgustaWestland to repair and overhaul these helicopters. Under the deal, announced by the manufacturer on September 26, work will begin immediately, with AgustaWestland providing a specialist team to cooperate with Indian aerospace industry personnel on the recovery programme.
Following India’s Pokhran nuclear tests in May 1998, US sanctions were imposed on the country, which had prevented spares being acquired for the Indian Navy’s Sea Kings and led to most of them being grounded. In order to keep at least some of these helicopters operational, from 1998 the seven Mk 42Bs were stripped for spares. Although sanctions were lifted in 2001, bureaucratic delays meant that approval for delivery of new Sea King spares was not granted until 2003, seriously affecting the fleet’s operational readiness.
Under the deal with AgustaWestland, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will be subcontracted to carry out repair and overhaul of rotable items (components required to be replaced after a specified amount of use or wear). These will include transmissions and rotor heads. HAL had already signed a contract with AgustaWestland in March 2004 to enable the company to perform indigenous Sea King repair and overhaul work to support the Indian Navy fleet. Work on the seven Mk 42Bs will begin at Indian Naval Air Station Kochi by the year-end and is expected to be completed in around 24-36 months.
The Indian Navy plans to retain its Sea King fleet in operational service until 2010 and is currently finalising negotiations to acquire six surplus US Navy UH-3H Sea Kings for around $66 million. These would be specifically for operation from the former US Navy transport dock ship USS Trenton (LPD 14), which India is in the process of purchasing (see News Briefs, November, p18). India is also looking ahead to replacing the current Sea King Mk 42B and Mk 42C fleet, issuing a request for proposals (RFP) last January to eight helicopter manufacturers. This seeks a direct purchase of 16 replacement helicopters, with the option to buy a further eight at a later date.