Airbus Helicopters believes that the Fennec may still secure a portion of the Indian reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter (RSH) requirement. (Photo: Chris Pocock)
Airbus Helicopters and Mahindra Defence Systems will create a
joint venture to respond to India’s large potential requirements for military
helicopters. The new partners said this will be the first private Indian
helicopter manufacturer under the“Make in India” initiative.
They are eyeing three particular requirements that could amount to more than
600 helicopters, although in two of the three cases, the Indian Ministry of
Defence (MoD) has already chosen alternative suppliers to meet part of
Mahindra is a vehicle and tractor maker with a defense business
that supplies armored vehicles, radars and surveillance equipment to India’s
armed forces. Its subsidiary Mahindra Aerospace recently bought GippsAero in
Australia, maker of theAirvan 8 utility aircraft.
“We have extensive expertise in engineering, automotive and fixed-wing sectors
and have made substantial investments in aero components manufacturing, while
Airbus Helicopters offers best-in-class rotorcraft platforms,” saidS. P.Shukla, chairman of Mahindra
“We have an
unparalleled track record of successful collaborations with local partners
across the world,” said Guillaume Faury, president andCEOof Airbus Helicopters. He said that
the partners would develop “an indigenous industrial ecosystem” for helicopters
based on his company’s “state-of-the-art, combat-proven platforms.” The Indian
armed forces have previously relied on state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) as sole
supplier of license-built and indigenous helicopters.
Airbus and Mahindra said they could act as prime contractor for
the reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter (RSH); the Naval Multirole
and the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH).
The Indian Ministry of Defence has already selected theKamov Ka-226T for theRSHrequirementand theSikorsky S-70B for theNMRHrequirement, although no
contracts have yet been signed.
An Airbus spokesman acknowledged these prior selections, but
toldAINthat the totalRSHrequirement for the Indian Air Force
and Army is 400, rather than the previously stated 197. The EuropeanOEMwould therefore again offer theAS550C3Fennec (now designatedH125M), for follow-onRSHorders. India has been evaluatingRSHproposals since 2009 and selected the
Ka-226T in preference to Fennecs that would have been built under license byHAL. The spokesman said that theH225MCaracal (previouslyEC725) would be offered for theNMRH, where the Indian requirement
is for more than 130 units, he added. India has been negotiating a contract for
16 Sikorsky S-70Bs as anNMRH, butAINhas learned that the bid is 70 percent
higher than the $268 million MoDbenchmark. As for theNUHrequirement, the MoD recently issued
anRFIfor a buy of 100 helicopters that can
be used for transport, search and rescue; disaster relief and maritime
surveillance/targeting. Airbus and Mahindra will propose theAS565 Panther.
According to a defense ministry official, speaking on condition
of anonymity toAIN, Russia's
Kamov is suggesting modifications to the Ka-226T to meet theNUHrequirement. WithHALpreparing to build the Ka-226T under
license as theRSH, this solution “would be in
the interest of cost and commonality.HAL’s rotorcraft
division is its most successful…it’s a combination you cannot beat,” he added.
Some observers doubt that the Airbus-Mahindra joint venture can be competitive
with rotorcraft produced byHAL.