Concerns are growing in the Indian Navy over the reliability of its fleet of Sikorsky helicopters.
A new report has revealed that the UH-3H helicopters, intended to provide an all-weather day and night assault transport of combat troops, supplies and equipment, have failed to maintain desired levels of serviceability in six out of seven years of operations aboard the amphibious transport dock INS Jalashwa (formerly USS Trenton).
The Comptroller and Auditor General, India’s apex auditor, found that serviceability — the availability of helicopters at any given time — was as low as 27.10% in 2015-16. Since being purchased in 2005 and commissioned two years later, the overall serviceability of the helicopters remained ‘unsatisfactory’ (below 50%).
Of the total designated life of 17,000 hours, the helicopters had already exhausted 15,000 hours and were available for only a further 2,000 hours.
“The average serviceability levels of the helicopter fleet remained unsatisfactory in six of seven years of its operation, since commissioning of the squadron in March 2009, despite reducing the number of helicopters for squadron operations to three against the sanctioned unit establishment four helicopters,” the audit report no.20 of 2017 related to Navy and Coast Guard observed.
Despite auditors warning against purchasing helicopters more than 50 years old, India’s defence ministry acquired the six UH-3Hs for $30 million as an interim solution for onboard aircraft on the INS Jalashwa, which was purchased from the US alongside the helicopters.