Indian Navy Getting Weapons On Lease — From US Predator Drones To European Panther Choppers

Is the Indian Navy is looking to procure Panther helicopters on lease from European company Airbus? In November, the Navy had leased two Predator-B drones from the US.

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The Government of India allowed the armed forces to lease equipment from foreign vendors under its Defense Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020, which came in the wake of rising tensions at India’s northern borders and the prospect of a two-front war with Pakistan and China.

European aerospace giant Airbus is in talks with the Navy to lease out its choppers, ThePrint reported. It quoted Airbus India President and the company’s South Asia Managing Director Remi Millard as saying, “We are ready to offer leasing options and this is an excellent opportunity to meet the short-term immediate operational requirements, especially in the Indian Ocean.

“We believe there is a capability gap in the Indian Ocean Region and we would be delighted to offer our helicopters to the Indian Navy.” However, the Navy has not made any official proposal for the process yet.

The Navy is looking forward to rapid expansion with the induction of new vessels, including an aircraft carrier. It needs to replace its aging fleet of Chetak helicopters under the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) procurement program and has already ordered 24 MH-60R utility helicopters from the US, which would be delivered on a priority basis.

The NUH procurement for 111 utility helicopters staggered due to multiple reasons, and the Airbus lease deal could be an interim measure to bridge the procurement gap.

The ‘Panther’ Helicopter

It is the military version of the famous Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin commercial transport helicopter, optimized to carry out military roles including combat assault, fire support, ASW (anti-submarine warfare), anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, and medical evacuation.

The Panther can be armed with different sets of munitions and armaments, depending on the intended role. Munitions include 20mm pod-mounted cannons, 68mm rocket pods, a maximum of eight Mistral air-to-air missiles, or a maximum of eight HOT anti-tank missiles — all of which can be mounted onto a universal weapon support beam.

The weapon systems are integrated with a Crouzet HDH-2A electronic sight and the autopilot, which provides automatic flight handling assistance during weapons deployment.

The helicopter has been exported to several countries including Bulgaria, Brazil, France, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates.