Indian-government owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has, after all, been announced as the partner for the manufacture of Russian Ka-226T helicopters, after months of speculation that an Indian private company, Reliance Defence (part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group), could be the Indian counterpart to Russia’s Rostec.
A press statement issued today by Russia’s state-owned Rostec quoted the CEO of the Rostec State Corporation, Sergei Chemezov, as saying:
The agreement with India is the result of long work with our Indian partners. This is the first Russian-Indian high-tech project, implemented by the Indian government within the framework of the “Make in India” program. The organization for the manufacture of helicopters is provided by the creation of a Russian-Indian joint venture in India, which includes holdings of Rostec – JSC “Rosoboronexport” and “Russian Helicopters”, and on the India side – the corporation “HAL” (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited).
The statement says that India and Russia signed an agreement under which ‘the State Corporation Rostec will be organize in India the production of the Russian Ka-226T and its modifications in the amount of not less than 200 units,’ as well as ‘maintenance, operation and repair of helicopters and providing them with technical support’.
Chemezov references the possibility of exports, as well, saying, “In the future, the program can be extended and both partners are considering the possibility of joint access to other markets as well.”
Observers in New Delhi are not overly surprised by the decision for a tie-up between state-controlled companies on both sides. The Russians have a long relationship with HAL, which has license-produced a number of Russian aircraft for the Indian armed forces.
“Rostec’s competitive advantage lies in the fact that we are ready to deal with not only the localization of helicopters in India, we also offer our partners the localization of production technology,” added Chemezov.
But observers fear that this may fail to achieve the spirit of ‘Make in India’ and caution against this joint venture executing more of HAL has done in the past: the assembly of knocked down and semi-knocked down kits, without any serious transfer and absorption of technology.
All of this comes after many years of delays and cancellations in the army’s light utility helicopter/reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter acquisition plans.
The Ka-226T is powered by two French Turbomeca Arrius 2G engines.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to lay the foundation stone of HAL’s new helicopter facility Biderehalla Kaval, Gubbi Talu, Tumakaru around 100 kilometers from Bangalore on Sunday.