US helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. is committed to making the aircraft locally in India, as part of the large deals it is bidding for, company officials said. Sikorsky will manufacture helicopters in India together with its existing partner, the Tata Group, or through new tie-ups. Sikorsky, a unit of United Technologies Corp. of the US, now manufactures helicopters in Connecticut. It has a tie-up with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, a Tata Group company, to make S-92 helicopter cabins at a facility in Hyderabad for the global market. In December, Sikorsky was selected to supply 16 choppers to the Indian Navy with an option to deliver eight additional helicopters. Sikorsky, among the world’s largest helicopter makers, is expected to bid for the Indian Navy’s tender for 120 multi-role helicopters valued at over $1 billion. It has already bid for 14 shore-based choppers for India’s Coast Guard.
“The RFQ (request for qualification) for 120 helicopters is not yet published. We are very keen to participate in this. If we get the order, we will be manufacturing these helicopters either through Tata Group or new partners,” said Samir Mehta, president, defence systems and services, Sikorsky Military Systems. Arvind Jeet Singh Walia, Sikorsky’s executive vice-president for India and South Asia, said that the company would make these choppers locally if the firm gets the orders. Mehta said that the helicopter maker is also contemplating building helicopters for Indian Navy through partnerships, including with state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, in India. “We are currently under negotiations,” said Mehta, without elaborating. On 2 March 2011, Mint reported that Sikorsky has plans to design and manufacture civilian and military helicopters in India for the local and other Asia-Pacific markets over the next four years—the first time a foreign aircraft company will use the country’s aerospace know-how to make choppers for the overseas market.
Sikorsky’s comments on Friday comes at a time when India’s armed forces are struggling to replace the vintage Cheetah and Chetak fleet, both from overseas and from Hindustan Aeronautics, India’s public sector aircraft maker. A decision to buy 197 light utility choppers has been hanging for nearly a decade. Sikorsky lost an order to sell 12 luxury helicopters to India to AgustaWestland Ltd, which is mired in a bribery scandal. India’s national auditor—the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)—said the country may have overpaid in a €560 million deal for the choppers. Both Mehta and Walia did not offer any comments on potential investments.
With 64 companies, the US is the leading participant in the Aero India 2015 show, which comes amid a warming of relations between the two countries. US President Barack Obama had visited India last month and was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, the first US president to do so. Asked whether closer ties between India and the US will help US companies to win more deals, Mehta said he is upbeat. “The warmer relation has created momentum not only with Indian government but also extended to various Indian companies,” Mehta said.