Has India-Russia Deal For Ka-226T Utility Helicopters Hit Rough Weather?

An India-Russia deal for Ka-226T utility helicopters has been held up as Moscow’s proposal of 62 percent indigenous content falls short of the original tender requirement of 70 percent, according to reports.

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The Indian Army and Air Force are desperately looking for utility helicopters to replace their aging fleet of Cheetah and Chetak rotorcraft

In 2015, India and Russia had signed an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) to procure at least 200 Ka-226T utility helicopters for the former’s armed forces for over $1 billion. Under the agreement, 60 helicopters had to be imported directly and the remaining to be manufactured locally at a joint facility at Tumakuru in India’s Karnataka state.

However, the final deal is held up over the indigenous content issues. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) chairman R. Madhavan told the Indian daily, The Hindu, that indigenous content in the helicopters to be built in India under the full Transfer of Technology (ToT) is between 27 percent and 33 percent.

“In Ka-226T when we talk of 70% indigenous content, it is not the same as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) 52%. The 70% is of the Russian content. Engine from Safran and avionics from other countries are not accounted for in this. Balance is what we are looking and from there 70% is taken. Taking the whole helicopter, the indigenous content is about 27-33%,” he said in response to a question from The Hindu on the sidelines of the recently-concluded Aero India 2012 show.

He said that the 62% offered would come under the Phase-4 production, whereas the Indian government insisted on the same under Phase 2.

According to the Russian proposal, the localization plan would be spread over four phases, beginning with 3.3% indigenization for 35 helicopters, going up to 15% for the next 25 helicopters, 35% for 30 helicopters in Phase 3, and eventually to 62.4% indigenization in Phase 4 for the last 50 helicopters.

The Indian Army and the Air Force have a requirement of over 400 utility helicopters, which will be met by both the Ka-226T and HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).

The Ka-226T is already in service with the Russian Air Force, its police units, and Ukrainian Naval Aviation. The Ka-226T is fitted with more powerful Turbomeca Arrius 2G1 engines instead of its Rolls Royce counterpart in the original Ka-226.

The helicopter has new avionics with multifunctional displays, an automatic control system, a navigation system, and a radar. It can be equipped with a hoist system, helicopter sling, searchlight, additional external fuel tank. For search and rescue missions, the helicopter can be equipped with medical modules.

Compared to Ka-226T, the HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter is equipped with a single (yet quite powerful) Shakti-1U turboshaft engine. However, it would be interesting to note which aircraft is acquired by both the forces and in what numbers, as the LUH has already completed its hot and high altitude trials and received the Initial Operational Clearance from the Indian Army in January 2021.

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