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How Russia Can Address India’s Aviation Needs

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How Russia Can Address India’s Aviation Needs

Kamov Ka-226T

Russian-Indian relations strengthen after signing of 10-year defense cooperation pact.

Written by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India on December 6. Cooperation on COVID-19, climate change, and military deals were topics of discussion. A 10-year defense cooperation pact and 28 agreements were signed.

Highly placed Russian defense sources speculated that the final deal for the Kamov Ka-226T light utility helicopters would be one of the major discussion agendas. This revelation was made by sources who had already confirmed that the delivery schedules for the S-400 anti-aircraft system would be finalized during Putin’s visit to New Delhi.

The Indian military desperately needs a light utility helicopter to replace the 1960-70s French-designed Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. Since these helicopters form the backbone of the Indian military on the border with China and Pakistan, maintenance, overhaul and rate of accidents are a huge concern. The Indian military is presently deficient by over 25% of Recce and Observation Helicopters. 77% of these helicopters have completed more than 30 years in service while the balance helicopters are approaching 50 years or have already completed 50 years. Also, the technical shelf life of the oldest helicopters will start terminating in 2023, exacerbating India’s shortage.

The initial projected requirement of new utility helicopters was 400, with 200 being procured from Russia and the rest by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). In 2003, the Indian military issued a tender for procuring 197 Light Utility Helicopters. This was to be a mix of direct procurement and license production by HAL. In April 2007, the Eurocopter AS 550 C3 Fennec was announced as the likely winner but the offer was withdrawn in December 2007 due to allegations of procedural irregularities. A new Request for Proposal with the same requirements was again floated in 2008 and trials and evaluations were completed by 2011. However, there was no decision until 2014 when the tender was finally withdrawn in August.

It was only after a summit meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Putin during the latter’s visit to India in October 2014 that the process was restarted. The Ka-226T was announced as the forerunner in an Indian Defense Acquisition Council notification, underlining the importance of the summit meeting in making this selection. An Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) was signed with Russia in December 2015 to procure 200 Ka 226T. Out of these, 60 were to be inducted in fly-away condition and the remaining 140 were to be manufactured in India. The delivery of the first helicopter was scheduled in 36 months, with the entire project being completed in eight years from the date of signing, i.e. 2023.

However, the case did not progress beyond the Technical Evaluation Stage primarily due to disagreements over the proportion of indigenous content. As per the IGA, 70% of content is Russian or outsourced. The remaining 30% has to have over 70% of indigenous content. This leads to a figure of approximately 21% Indian-made for the entire helicopter. However, as per HAL, the Russians initially offered a maximum of 18%. Effectively, India’s procurement process has been left hanging due to a disagreement of just 2-3% of indigenous content.

The Indian military has already grounded a total of 280 helicopters after a horrific accident in November 2016 led to the death of three aviators. A total of 19 personnel were killed in aviation accidents between 2012-21, once again demonstrating the importance of India needing to upgrade its aviation sector.

The price of a single Ka-226T in flyaway condition is $6 million. However, the assembled helicopter in India will cost close to $11 million due to associated costs of land acquisition, labor, technology transfers and water and electricity requirements. However, importing the entire lot of the original 200 will force India to depend completely on Russia for spare parts and maintenance.

Although HAL was granted clearance for a limited series of 12 LUH indigenous helicopters (engines still dependent on French expertise), with the first batch likely to be inducted by December 2022, there are a number of operational and technical issues. The tail rotor system of the LUH can lead to disastrous consequences when operating in high altitudes, the most likely area of employment for these platforms. Also, the Autopilot is still not incorporated in these helicopters, an anathema to pilots operating in the 21st century.

As long as these serious concerns are not addressed, the Indian military faces a serious operational challenge, especially as tensions with Pakistan and China remain. The induction of the Ka-226 is now an existential operational necessity since LUH helicopters are not in a state to be mass produced and inducted to high altitude operational areas by the time the technical shelf life of the oldest Cheetah/Chetak helicopters start terminating in 2023.

Putin’s trip to New Delhi and the confirmation of the fact that the final agreement for Ka-226T was negotiated and sealed, puts to rest a number of doubts over India’s aviation capabilities in the long run. More importantly, it further consolidates New Delhi’s relations with Moscow at a time when it is strengthening relations with Washington to oppose Beijing.

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Jnoub

Also India has been more cooperative with China recently, hopefully they can sign one as well. India will be a very good ally for China

S Balu

SAD PUTIN DID NOT SIGN A CONTRACT WITH INDIANS TO BUILD MORE TOILETS
AND SEWAGE SYSTEMS

Lone Ranger

70% of the Indian armed forces is using Russian gear.
80% when it comes to tanks or the Air Force.

jens holm

Today You can buy all kinds of helicopters a la carte. Many countries makes many kinds of very good helicopters.

So the main job for india is to find, what they really need and not being maipulated to something bad for them.

As I know India, they have very different climate zones. One cant cover the low land as well as their warzones in the north.

We saw the same for Russia in Syria. Those very good helicopters could not handle sand and very hot, but they could be changed to it. But its often is better to buy the right stuff as number one and not need later on to change back.

Russia as well as China has very good helicopters as well.

Denmark now has replaced Our ancinet Sikosky helicopters. Our choise was the safe and easy way. We took their new version and by that the pilots eysy could take over them. The landing and repair faciliities almost are the same as for the old ones.

So I wish them to buy the right stuff as well as finding sellers best to the price. Helicopters can be very expensive.

As I recall it Russia has very good helicopters for high altitudes.

Lone Ranger

Today You can buy all kinds of helicopters a la carte. Many countries makes many kinds of very good helicopters.

So the main job for india is to find, what they really need and not being manipulated to something bad for them.

As I know India, they have very different climate zones. One cant cover the low land as well as their warzones in the north.

We saw the same for USA in Syria. Those very good helicopters could not handle sand and very hot, but they could be changed to it. But its often is better to buy the right stuff as number one and not need later on to change back.

USA as well as EU has very good helicopters as well.

Denmark now has replaced Our ancient Sikorsky helicopters. Our choice was the safe and easy way. We took their new version and by that the pilots easy could take over them. The landing and repair faciliities almost are the same as for the old ones.

So I wish them to buy the right stuff as well as finding sellers best to the price. Helicopters can be very expensive.

As I recall it Russia has very good helicopters for high altitudes.
Fixed.

down under

India suffered from colonialism as much as any country.

Last edited 1 month ago by down under
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