The Defence Ministry on Tuesday approved Rupees 21,738-crore project for buying 111 naval utility helicopters (NUHs) for the Navy. The latest helicopters will substitute the Navy’s outdated fleet of French-designed Chetak choppers.

According to officials, the government also cleared a Rupees 450-crore proposal for nine active towed array sonar systems for the Indian naval ships and submarines.

The two long-pending proposals were accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the sources said.

The mega project will be executed under the strategic partnership (SP) policy of the overall Make in India thrust. The new SP policy promotes the indigenous defence production sector. Under the project, 16 helicopters will be imported while 95 will be made by an Indian manufacturer.

The government will now start the process to identify a foreign helicopter maker and an Indian defence firm for a joint venture for the project.

The sources said the Navy will soon issue RFP (request for proposal) to leading manufacturers of military helicopters.

In May, the government had revealed the strategic partnership model under which select private firms will be roped in to build military platforms such as submarines and fighter jets in India in partnership with foreign entities.

The defence ministry had that month finalised the SP model under which select private firms will be roped in to build military platforms like submarines, fighter jets and choppers in India in partnership with foreign entities.

The policy envisages the establishment of long-term strategic partnerships between Indian defence majors and global defence firms to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains.

Initially, the strategic partners were to be selected in four segments – fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines and armoured fighting vehicles/main battle tanks. It is expected to be expanded to other segments at a later stage.

The Navy has been pressing the government to procure new utility and multi-role helicopters to add teeth to its existing capability and replace its ageing fleet of choppers but the procurement process has seen years of delays.