HAL 'to licence-build Ka-226' for army, air force

2:56:00 PM
NEW DELHI, -- India's state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is likely to form a joint venture (JV) with Russian Helicopters to licence-build 200 Kamov Ka-226T 'Hoodlum' light multirole helicopters for the Indian military for an estimated USD700 million, official sources said.

They said HAL was in advanced talks with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to establish the JV to manufacture the twin-engine Ka-226Ts in Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's home state of Goa.

India aims to employ the Ka-226T, a variant of which is in service only with the Russian Air Force, for armed reconnaissance, forward air control, directing artillery fire, inserting troops for special missions, and for casualty evacuation.

These talks followed a feasibility report that HAL presented to the MoD soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin offered the Ka-226T to India during his December 2014 visit to New Delhi.

The MoD approved the Ka-226T programme on 13 May as a replacement for the obsolete Chetak (Aerospatiale Alouette III) and Cheetah (Aerospatiale SA-315B), which is being operated by the Army Aviation Corps (AAC) and the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Official sources said the direct import of a "limited number" of Ka-226Ts - possibly around 50 - was almost certain to meet the IAF's and AAC's immediate requirements once the deal was inked under an Inter Governmental Agreement. HAL anticipates an annual production rate of 30 to 40 Ka-226Ts, with indigenous content rising to 30% three to four years after manufacture begins.

Officials said another aspect that prompted the MoD's decision to opt for the Ka-226T was its Turbomecca Arrius 2G1 engine, which is manufactured by France's Safran, with whom HAL has a long-standing technical collaboration.

The two have jointly developed the Shakti derivatives of Turbomecca's TM333-2B engine. These power the locally developed Dhruv and the Light Combat Helicopter and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) that are currently under development.

Industry sources said the involvement of Sun Group, a private sector company based on the outskirts of Delhi, in the Ka-226T project is also under consideration, as it has links with Russian Helicopters.

The Ka-226T, along with Eurocopter's AS550 Fennec platform, competed for the MoD's 2009 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter (RSH) tender for 197 platforms. This tender was scrapped - for the second time - in August 2014 following allegations of wrongdoing in the selection process.

Meanwhile, HAL sources said that despite the possible Ka-226T JV, it would abandon its LUH project, which has been under development since 2009. The 3.1-tonne, single-engine LUH is expected to make its maiden test flight in September in anticipation of a MoD contract for 187 helicopters.

However, the anticipated programme for an Indian company-led JV to locally build nearly 400 platforms under the RSH requirement is almost certain to be scrapped, officials said.

The Kamov Ka-226T  light multi-mission helicopter can be operated by India's military, police, and civilian agencies.


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