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New Delhi: The shortage of helicopters has emerged as the most alarming operational gap in the Navy, even more than submarines, minesweepers and missiles, with new acquisition and production projects failing to make any headway for well over a decade now.

The Navy, in fact, desperately requires 147 multi-role helicopters with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, without which its warships are virtually defenceless against enemy submarines, and also requires 110 twin-engine naval light utility helicopters to replace obsolete single-engine Chetaks.

Even the initial procurement of 16 MRHs, with an option for eight more, has not materialised despite being granted the "acceptance of necessity" way back in 2005.

Instead, the global tender for this project issued in 2008 is now on the verge of being scrapped, with cost negotiations with helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky remaining deadlocked.

Moreover, the long-winded acquisition of 123 more naval MRHs as well as 110 NUHs is yet to even kick off because of the defence ministry's failure to finalize the "strategic partnership" model under the "Make in India" policy.

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