Russia will offer the Kamov Ka 226T chopper that it will produce in partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for an upcoming Rs 12000 crore `Make in India’ deal for a naval utility helicopter.
The helicopter, which will be produced for the army and air force as part of a government to government between Russia and India but it does not have a naval version yet. If it participates, the Russian chopper will compete against competitors from Airbus and Sikorsky. “A naval version is currently under development by Russia.”
“We believe that the joint venture with HAL for the KA 226T can be offered for the Indian Navy requirement. It will not be an import but will be a made in India system. We are ready to negotiate on this with our Indian partners,” Alexander Mikheev, DG of Rosoboronexport said in response to a question by ET.
The development is interesting as HAL has already put its hat in the ring for the naval requirement by asking the defence ministry to consider its indigenous chopper as well, against just looking at international companies for replacements.
The state owned company has informed the defence ministry about the progress in its light utility helicopter (LUH) program – different from the KA 226 – that undertook its first flight in September 2016 and is planned for production starting this year.
Making a pitch for considering a naval variant of this helicopter for the requirement of 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH), the company has written that Rs 400 crore has already been invested into the program and it can be used by the navy instead of relying on imports.
The NUH program is a key priority for the Navy that wants to retire its ageing Chetak fleet and is short of rotary wing aircraft for warships at sea.
In July, the government has cleared guidelines to select private sector companies for major defence manufacturing projects under the strategic partnerships (SP) mode. The first project that will take off under the initiative is the Rs 12000 crore requirement for naval utility helicopters, tenders for which can now be issued in the coming months.
The next steps will include issuing a global request for proposals to international manufacturers that can include Airbus, Bell, Sikorsky and Kamov. At the same time, the process to down select Indian companies that can partner and set up manufacturing facilities will start with contenders including Tata, Mahindra and the Kalyani Group. It is still not clear if state run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be allowed to take part as well.