Faced with a shortage of multirole choppers in the Navy, the defence ministry, later this month, will decide on a Rs 14,000-crore proposal to buy 24 such helicopters from the US under a government-to-government deal.

This agreement is crucial for the Navy to replace its ageing fleet of Sea King choppers, which were acquired in the 1980s from Britain for anti-submarine warfare and special operations.

"A high level meeting chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to consider this proposal next week for buying the 24 choppers from the US," senior government sources told MyNation.

The proposal was supposed to be fielded earlier by the Navy but had been deferred due to certain specific reasons by the government. 

The deal is critical for the Navy as it had failed to finalise a deal for buying 16 multirole helicopters after a long and gruelling procedure spanning nine years, with the US firm dealing with the procurement deliberations refusing to extend the validity of its commercial offer. As a result, the defence ministry had to step back.

US firm Lockheed Martin produces two multirole choppers, including MH-60 Romeo and S-70 Bravo. 

In the previous tender, the Navy had wanted to buy 16 choppers, but now it wants to go for 24 choppers in view of the increased responsibilities in its area of operations. Some Navy officers claimed that the force was in a bad condition as its Sea King multi-role choppers were getting older and its warships were operating without multirole choppers.

The Navy also has plans of issuing an international tender for purchasing 123 Naval Multirole Helicopters (NMRH), which would allow it to deploy one chopper each on all of its warships. Navy officers claimed that recently when the MARCOS were operating in the Gulf of Aden in thwarting a piracy bid, they felt restricted while taking action against a group of pirates who ran away from the site.

The defence ministry has already given a go-ahead to the maritime force to purchase 111 naval utility helicopters, given the requirement to replace its vintage 
Cheetah/Chetak choppers.