Friday, December 19, 2014

Russia Could Grab Major Indian Helicopter Contracts

by Neelam Mathews

 - December 18, 2014, 12:24 PM
Russian president Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi(Photo: Indian Prime Minister’s Office)

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to reaffirm friendly ties during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Delhi on December 11 by signing defense agreements that include possible licensed production of the Kamov Ka-226T helicopter. But Russia’s policy tilt toward Pakistan, with the lifting of an embargo on the supply of military hardware and the start of talks with Islamabad for the sale of Mi-35 helicopters, seems to have rung alarm bells in Delhi.
The Ka-226T is a competitor for the Reconnaissance Surveillance Helicopter (RSH) requirement that has been postponed twice in the past decade. The new Indo-Russian defense agreement could result in scrapping of theRFP for 197 RSHs for the Indian Army and Air Force. The Airbus Helicopters AS550 C3 Fennec and the Bell 407 are other contenders. A government official told AIN, “At present there is no clarity even in the Indian Air Force on whether there will be an option for competitive bidding, or whether it will be a government-nominated platform.”
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which has already been awarded the 187 light utility helicopters (LUH) requirement, could be a partner for the Ka-226T. The new government policy of “Make in India” resulted in October's cancellation of the bid for 56 naval utility helicopters (NUH). Now all bids for the NUH must comply with the new rule that the prime contractor must be an Indian vendor, working in partnership with an OEM.
Russia has also indicated a willingness to allow licensed production of Mi-17 helicopters. India has already placed two orders for the Mi-17 in tranches of 80 and 59. The latter tranche has not yet been delivered. Further, the Mi-17 could meet an Indian Navy requirement for 124 twin-engine Multi Role Helicopters (MRH), said a Navy official on condition of anonymity. The Navy recently chose the Sikorsky S-70B to meet the ASW/ASuW part of the MRH requirement only.
These developments support Modi’s assertion that while “international relations are changing…[Russia’s] unique place in India’s foreign policy will not change.” He added, “We will follow up on this quickly.” But an official from an international engine OEM told AIN that the development risked labeling India once again as an unreliable partner. “You cannot keep vendors on a leash forever,” he said.

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