Kamov Ka-226 Light Observation Helicopter (LOH)
One big project facing problems is the one for 197 light helicopters for over Rs 3,000 crore, with Russian Kamov Ka-226T pitted against Eurocopter AS 550 C3 Fennec after the technical evaluation. Acquisition of these 197 helicopters was to be followed by the indigenous manufacture of 187 similar ones by Hindustan Aeronautics to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak fleets of Army and IAF.
The HAL Cheetah helicopter units were used for observation, liaison and SAR duties. Army (and IAF) Cheetahs regularly support Indian Army troops at altitudes in excess of 24,000+ feet. The first Turbomeca TM 333-2B2-powered Cheetah was successfully test flown in January 2003, with a significant number of these helicopters likely to be fitted with this more powerful engine in order to modernise the Army Aviation Corps. Pushpinder Singh Chopra, in a June 2001 AW&ST issue, said a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) program would replace the Cheetahs that HAL has built for the Army and Air Force.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) proposed development of a Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) of 3 ton class and Medium Lift Helicopter (MLH) of 10 ton class to complete the full range of helicopters. Both the IAF and the Army have projected a requirement for 187 LOHs, of which most would go to the Army. All these would be delivered during the 11th (2007-2012) and 12th (2012-2017) Defence Plans. As of 2008 the Army would get 133 light utility helicopters and the Air Force would get 64 of them. The Air Force version of the aircraft would be called Light Utility Helicopter while for the Army it would be known as Light Observation Helicopter.
2008 - Light Utility Helicopter
In July 2008, in a major drive to modernise the armed forces and expand its aviation wing, the Defence Ministry issued a request for proposal (RFP) to procure 197 helicopters. From the 197 helicopters — 131 were for the Army Aviation and the rest 66 for the Air Force. Besides, another tender for Naval Utility Helicopters, under which 56 were to be bought.
The armed forces would modernise their helicopter fleet by 2010 by replacing the age-old Cheetah and Chetak, which had been in service for last 40 years. It was expected that the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) would develop the remaining 115 helicopters. The proposed procurement is worth Rs. 3000 crore. HAL would undertake the maintenance of these helicopters on a transfer of technology (ToT) basis. It has assured that it would develop the same type of platforms in five to seven years and would fulfill the rest of the requirements. The trials would end by 2009 and the induction of 197 helicopters would take place by 2010.
Six foreign companies would bid for the helicopter deal. The companies were Bell (US), Eurocopter, Augusta Westland (Italy), Rosobornexport (Russia), MD Helicopters (US) and Sikorsky (US). The total number of helicopters may increase from 312 to 384 units due to a new requirement for a large number of heavy-lift helicopters.
By November 2011 there was a proposal for procurement of 187 Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) under design and development project undertaken by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
European defence major Eurocopter wrote a letter to Army chief Gen VK Singh in February 2012 expressing "concern" over delays in finalising the deal for procuring 197 light helicopters for the defence forces. "We take this opportunity to express our concern regarding the time frame for the very important programme, for which the RFP was issued in July 2008. "The technical evaluation process has now taken over 38 months and has not yet been concluded due to reasons which are unknown to us," Eurocopter told the Army Chief in the letter.
Rosoboronexport, the sole Russian intermediary for exports and imports of weapons and military equipment, issued a press release 13 February 2012 confirming that the Russian Ka-226T light helicopter would soon defeat its European counterpart the AS550 C3 Fennec, manufactured by Eurocopter, in the tendering process to supply 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters for the air force and land forces of the Republic of India. “All the test phases have been completed, and the examination of bidders’ proposals is at the concluding stage," the company’s press office reported.
The marked advantage of the Russian proposal was its “cumulative" effect: the excellent Ka-226T rotary-wing aircraft is offered as a package with an offset programme that was attractive for the Indian side, this document says. First, under the offset programme Rosoboronexport, together with companies of the Russian Helicopters holding, proposed to set up joint production of sub-systems and components for the Ka-226T, and subsequently to set up assembly of these machines in the Republic of India. Second, it proposed joint development of new modifications of the Ka-226T. And third, this program would enable the two countries – which are strategic partners – to move towards full-scale industrial cooperation in the field of helicopter building.
In January 2014, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against a Brigadier working with Army Aviation Corps for allegedly fudging trial flight records of these helicopters.
The ministry of defence on 29 August 2014 cancelled the Rs 6,000 crore / $1-billion tender to buy 197 light utility helicopters in which Airbus Helicopters AS550 was competing with Kamov’s Ka-226T. It was the second time the light helicopter tender was cancelled by India. From the 197 helicopters — 131 were for the Army Aviation and the rest 66 for the Air Force. Besides, another tender for Naval Utility Helicopters, under which 56 were to be bought, too, got cancelled.
The government decided to allow domestic players to manufacture the helicopters. The Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley put the acquisition under the “Buy and Make Indian" category, allowing the Indian industry to make the helicopters under a joint venture with a foreign manufacturer.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in India on 11 December 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited him to participate in the $3 billion light-utility helicopters project, a signal that he expected India-Russia ties to go beyond ordinary buyer-seller relationships. The project would also be the first big-ticket "Make in India" initiative in the defense sector.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said "There are two contracts - one on the Mi-17, in which they (Indian side) really need, and the second - the Ka-226T is a big contract to build on the territory of India". The Russian Ka-226 was competing with the European AS550 Fennec in the Indian tender for the supply of nearly 200 light multi-purpose helicopters.
The Defense Acquisition Committee (DAC) on May 13, 2015 accepted Russia’s offer to build 200 Ka-226T light-utility helicopters under the Make in India initiative. The cost and other moralities are being worked out. Around 50 Ka-226Ts may be imported off the shelf to address immediate IAF and Army Aviation Corp (AAC) requirements. HAL would likely license produce the aircraft in India with the Gurgaon based SUN Group, which has a tie-up with Russian Helicopters, manufacturing main Ka-226T parts in India, including fuselage, column and main rotor.
New Delhi was ready to co-produce with Russia some 200 Ka-226 helicopters in India, Russian Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov said 01 December 2015. "India is ready for joint cooperation of this modification [Ka-226T] of the helicopter in terms of co-production in India in an amount of at least about 200 units," Manturov told Rossiya-24 TV channel.
India planned to buy Russian light multipurpose helicopter Ka-226T and then will speak about their co-production on the territory of this South Asian country. This is stated in an official statement 04 December 2105 by the Indian Ministry of Defence.
"The Council for Defence Procurement approved the feasibility of the request for the purchase and the subsequent joint production of helicopters Ka-226T for the Army and the Air Force in India," - said the defense establishment. Exactly how many helicopters India can purchase was not specified, but the "possible initial order of approximately 50 machines.... Just in the first stage we can talk about 200 Ka-226T, including purchased ready-made and a joint venture in India".
The proposal on the joint production of Ka-226T was discussed for the first time at the meeting of Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to New Delhi in December 2014. Then the sides noted that the joint venture may produce helicopters, including for export to third countries.
Speaking in Moscow 24 December 2015 after talks with President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “We have laid the foundation of the future character of this strategic partnership ... The intergovernmental agreement on manufacturing of Kamov 226 helicopters in India is the first project for a major defense platform under the 'Make-in-India' mission, it is rightly with our most important defense partner."
Moscow would set up a production line for the light helicopters, which will supply the Indian military and eventually Russia. Out of 200 Kamovs, some 60 will be made in Russia and the remaining will be assembled and manufactured in India under the public private partnership mode. State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is the lead for the Indian side.
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