Friday, July 17, 2015

Airbus Helicopters Eyes Big Indian Deals with New Joint Venture

 - July 15, 2015, 7:36 AM
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 the need.
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 the Airvan 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,” said S. P. Shukla, chairman of Mahindra Defence Systems. 
We have an unparalleled track record of successful collaborations with local partners across the world,” said Guillaume Faury, president and CEO of 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 Helicopter (NMRH); and the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH). The Indian Ministry of Defence has already selected the Kamov Ka-226T for the RSH requirement and the Sikorsky S-70B for theNMRH requirement, although no contracts have yet been signed.
An Airbus spokesman acknowledged these prior selections, but told AIN that the total RSH requirement for the Indian Air Force and Army is 400, rather than the previously stated 197. The European OEM would therefore again offer the AS550C3 Fennec (now designated H125M), for follow-on RSH orders. India has been evaluatingRSH proposals since 2009 and selected the Ka-226T in preference to Fennecs that would have been built under license by HAL. The spokesman said that the H225M Caracal (previously EC725) would be offered for the NMRH, where the Indian requirement is for more than 130 units, he added. India has been negotiating a contract for 16 Sikorsky S-70Bs as an NMRH, but AIN has learned that the bid is 70 percent higher than the $268 million MoDbenchmark. As for the NUH requirement, the MoD recently issued an RFI for 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 the AS565 Panther. 
According to a defense ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity to AIN, Russia's Kamov is suggesting modifications to the Ka-226T to meet the NUH requirement. With HAL preparing to build the Ka-226T under license as the RSH, 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 by HAL.

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