State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is a "front-runner" for partnering with Russia for the manufacture of Kamov Ka-226T helicopters -- which will eventually replace the vintage Cheetah and Chetak choppers -- under the 'Make in India' initiative.
The Russian offer to build the Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) in India received clearance last night from the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC).
"HAL is the front-runner as of now. Talks would be held now to finalise the contract and work out the modalities," defence sources here said.
Interestingly, HAL itself is in the process of making an LUH.
While the initial clearance is for about 200 Kamov helicopters, sources said that the number could increase in time.
They added that the helicopters would be manufactured in India under 100 per cent Transfer of Technology.
The helicopter, a twin-turbine utility machine with an interchangeable mission pod in place of a conventional cabin, is meant for both air force and the army.
However, this project has now put a question mark on a different process to procure light utility helicopters for army and air force to replace the fleet of Cheetah and Chetak choppers.
Defence Ministry had last August scrapped a scam-tainted tender worth over Rs 6,000 crore to procure 197 light utility helicopters for army and air force to replace the fleet of Cheetah and Chetak choppers, which are used to move troops and equipment to high-altitude locations like Siachen.
DAC had then decided to retract the tender for procuring 197 helicopters. It was decided that Indian industry would be given the opportunity to produce around 400 such choppers for the requirements of the armed forces.
"The original demand was 187 LUHs for the air force and 197 for the army. However, DAC has now cleared 200 Kamov. No decision has been taken on how the rest of the requirement will be met," the sources said.
They underlined that the navy's plan to procure over 100 Naval Utility Helicopters is on track and is a separate process for which Request for Proposal is in the last stage of finalisation.