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November 5, 2015

Defence preparedness: 5 recent developments to boost India's chopper strength

 
At a time when the global power and strategic equations are under focus, India's defence sector has seen a major fillip in the last few months. There is increased stress on indigenization under the 'Make-in-India' policy and government is all set to unveil a new more 'industry-friendly' defence procurement policy by this month end. Meanwhile, with 49% FDI now allowed in the defence sector, various partnerships between India's growing private-sector defence firms and foreign companies are hatching. The government has also cleared deals to ensure enhanced combat and defence preparedness of the armed forces. But how far has the government progressed? 
In a series of articles, ET will list out some major areas that have found focus. In this article we look at five exciting developments that have taken place to boost India's chopper strength.  India has recently signed a nearly $3 billion deal for purchase of 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers with American aviation giant Boeing and the US government.
 The Cabinet Committee on Security had on September 22 cleared the deal which had been hanging since 2013 when the cost negotiations were completed. Apache AH 64D Longbow helicopters are one of the most advanced multi-role combat helicopters, featuring all-weather and night-fighting features, ability to track upto 128 targets in less than a minute and engage with 16, besides stealth characteristics, advanced sensors and beyond visual range missiles.
The Apache will be the first pure attack helicopter in India's possession. While the Russian origin Mi 35 has been operated for years and is now on the verge of retirement, it was an assault chopper that was designed to carry troops into heavily defended territories. CH-47F Chinook helicopter can carry 9.6 tons of cargo, including heavy machinery, artillery guns and even light armoured vehicles to high altitude.  The long pending acquisition will not only augment air force's heavy lift capability for military tasks but is a vital addition for the construction of strategic roads and infrastructure projects on the border. 
To meet the massive, urgent requirements of the armed forces, India is set to have three different lines of light military choppers, all of which will be manufactured under the 'Make in India' initiative.  Senior officials have told ET that despite a deal with the Russian government for Ka 226 helicopters, two other lines, including a western chopper that it still to be selected will be required to keep pace with the demand of the three forces. Indicating that a major 'Make in India' project for the private sector to produce close to 200 helicopters in partnership with a foreign vendor is still alive despite the Kamov deal, a senior air force functionary said that tenders for the program would be out soon.
 In a deal, India and Russia have agreed to jointly build 200 military choppers as part of intensification and diversification of their strategic ties.Moving ahead on its Rs 6,000-crore 'Make in India' project for military helicopters, Russia recently informed Ministry of Defence about a partnership with Reliance Defence to manufacture Kamov 226T choppers locally.In a letter sent to the Indian government, Russia has announced an understanding with the subsidiary company of Reliance Infrastructure for the project, indicating that the company could be a lead integrator for the mega contract to manufacture 200 twin-engine helicopters for the Indian Army. 
Deputy CEO of Russian Helicopters, Vadim Ligay said the option to partner with India's public-sector enterprise Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) was also open. "The topic of who to work with, which company, is part of the negotiation process of the contract, as I am sure you understand," he said.
Even though the indigenous Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), by state-run aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has been under development for some years, a series of recent performance trials have paved way for finalisation of basic configuration.  Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently visited HAL's helicopter complex to have a detailed look on advanced features and armanent fit of LCH prototypes, as the chopper inches closer to certification.
 LCH has completed performance flight trials which involved not only development testing at Bangalore but also trials at extreme environment conditions such as sea level at Chennai, cold weather at Leh, hot weather at Jodhpur and hot and high altitude tests at Leh.  In addition to that, in conversation with Economictimes.com, HAL said that the LCH is now eyeing weapon-based trials with its fourth technology demonstrator, TD-4HAL claims that the LCH is designed to carry out dedicated combat roles such as Air Defence, anti-tank, scout and support combat search/rescue missions. It incorporates a number of stealth features such as reduced visual, aural, radar and infra-red signatures and crashworthy landing gear, armour protection for better survivability.
 The helicopter is powered by two Shakti engines. There are plans to produce LCH in large numbers to meet the operational requirements."TD-4 has been planned to facilitate accelerated weapon flight trials. TD-4 is getting ready and would be available for weapon trials soon," HAL's CMD, T Suvarna Raju told 
     The coast guard is finally close to getting its own fleet of medium lift choppers, the requirement for which was raised after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks that exposed chinks in the surveillance and interception capabilities of the force.  While the coast guard currently operates ageing Chetaks as well as indigenous Advanced Light Choppers (ALH) for patrolling, search and rescue and casualty evacuation, it will be able to cover larger areas faster with the new fleet.
Sources have told ET that Airbus as emerged as the lead bidder for a Rs 2000 crore coast guard competition to procure 14 helicopters. The EC 725 is learnt to have beat its competitor, Sikorsky's S 92. Airbus Helicopters and Mahindra Defence, a Mahindra Group subsidiary, have announced their plan to produce helicopters to cater to India's military requirements.  According to the two companies, the joint venture will be set up in the coming months.
              "The tie-up is in line with our intent to develop an indigenous industrial ecosystem dedicated to helicopters," Guillaume Faury, Airbus Helicopters' president and CEO said in the statement, announcing the memorandum of understanding.The two companies will now get into discussions to finalise the formation of the joint venture which, once set up, will act as the prime contractor for India's military helicopter tenders including the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter, the Naval Utility Helicopter and the Naval Multirole Helicopter procurement programmes. Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra group, soon after signing a supply agreement with Airbus Group SE, had termed it as just the "tip of the iceberg". 
The Mahindra group, India's leading utility vehicle and tractor maker through Mahindra Aerospace makes utility aircraft business, based in Australia, and currently produces the Airvan 8, a turbo-prop aircraft.

economictimes
At a time when the global power and strategic equations are under focus, India's defence sector has seen a major fillip in the last few months. There is increased stress on indigenization under the 'Make-in-India' policy and government is all set to unveil a new more 'industry-friendly' defence procurement policy by this month end.

Meanwhile, with 49% FDI now allowed in the defence sector, various partnerships between India's growing private-sector defence firms and foreign companies a ..

At a time when the global power and strategic equations are under focus, India's defence sector has seen a major fillip in the last few months. There is increased stress on indigenization under the 'Make-in-India' policy and government is all set to unveil a new more 'industry-friendly' defence procurement policy by this month end.

Meanwhile, with 49% FDI now allowed in the defence sector, various partnerships between India's growing private-sector defence firms and foreign companies a ..

At a time when the global power and strategic equations are under focus, India's defence sector has seen a major fillip in the last few months. There is increased stress on indigenization under the 'Make-in-India' policy and government is all set to unveil a new more 'industry-friendly' defence procurement policy by this month end.

Meanwhile, with 49% FDI now allowed in the defence sector, various partnerships between India's growing private-sector defence firms and foreign companies a ..

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