Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 5
Russia has formally agreed to have a joint venture with India for production of the Kamov-226T light utility helicopter which was announced as the first major ‘Make in India’ project in October 2016.
The two long-standing military allies had faced hurdles as Russia had not approved the Joint Venture. Top sources in the Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday that Russia had conveyed its consent for the JV given by President Vladimir Putin.
New Delhi was not satisfied with the price being asked by the Russian side and it was one of the reasons for holding back the formal JV.
An inter-government agreement inked in October 2016, during the Narendra Modi-Vladimir Putin meet at Goa had announced the Kamov deal. It was in December 2015 that it was first announced that the Kamov-226T would be the copter of choice.
The Russians have public sector giant, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), as the Indian partner. However, the Ministry of Defence was also looking to have private sector Indian investors to share a part of the contract that India has to execute under a joint venture with Russia.
Kamov-HAL are to produce 200 of the Kamov 226-T copters at a cost of nearly Rs 6,500 crore or Rs 32 crore per copter in India.
The HAL is owned by the Ministry of Defence and has previous experience of making copters.
The Indian forces need some 800 light utility helicopters over the next decade, a demand which cannot be fulfilled by the HAL alone.
The twin-engined Kamov 226-T will replace the single-engine Cheetah/Chetak, usually deployed for surveillance, dropping small loads and for rescue, including of troops posted at forbidding heights such as the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region.
The three services and the Coast Guard currently have 430 Cheetah/Chetak helicopters. They are based on the 1950s’ designed Alouette Aérospatiale 315B Lama of France.
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