India Requires Russia, S. Korea to Partner With Local Firms in Helo Contest
NEW DELHI — India's Defence Ministry has decided that South Korea and Russia must partner with Indian firms in order to take part in its helicopter competition, despite offers of complete technology transfer, according to an MoD source.
South Korea is offering its Surion light utility helicopter (LUH) and Russia its Ka-226 machine. Russian President Vladimir Putin made the offer during his Dec. 11 visit to India.
"MoD's decision to buy LUH only through competition from domestic vendors is a virtual rejection of any government-to-government helicopter production deal between India and Russia," said defense analyst Nitin Mehta.
The MoD source, however, said the decision not to enter a joint program with either South Korea or Russia is part of a policy to boost the domestic private sector defense industry, and that the MoD would like to see partnerships for weapons programs with overseas companies.
After coming to power, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi canceled two global tenders for light utility helicopter purchases and approached the domestic companies to participate in the procurement of unspecified numbers of helicopters, either alone or in partnership with an overseas company.
India needs 440 LUHs to replace its aging Cheetah and Chetak helicopters used for reconnaissance and logistics in the high altitude battlefields in the Himalayas.
After the summit talks with Putin, Modi said in a statement: "I am pleased that Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters. It includes the possibility of exports from India. It can be used for both military and civilian use. We will follow up on this quickly."
South Korea has also offered India full tech transfer of the Surion helicopter, the MoD source said. A diplomat from the South Korean Embassy in New Delhi confirmed that a proposal was been made to India in December, but gave no details.
In August, MoD canceled the 2012 tender for the purchase of 56 naval utility helicopters, in which Airbus Helicopters and AgustaWestland were in the race.
In July, MoD canceled the 2008 global tender for the purchase of 197 light utility helicopters worth $1 billion, in which now Airbus Helicopters' AS550 was in competition with Russia's Ka-226T built by Kamov.
India's helicopter requirement is expected to grow to 600. In addition, the MoD also plans to procure 90 multirole helicopters worth $2.5 billion through the "Buy and Make (India)" route.
"Except for state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL], no private-sector defense major has ever produced a military helicopter," Mehta said. "But in the future, tie-ups are expected with overseas defense companies to tap the emerging helicopter market."
US-based Sikorsky and Tata Group already have an agreement, and in October, Airbus Helicopters also announced a tie-up with the Tata to jointly produce Avro transport aircraft.