Indian Helicopter Contract: Airbus H22M Heavy-Lift Choppers ‘Likely Winner’ As Russia Pulls Out Its Kamov Offer?

India’s much-awaited deal to acquire advanced heavy choppers for its Coast Guard could finally have a winner with one of the two contenders pulling out of the race. The Coast Guard has been on the lookout for heavy-lift helicopters for a while now.

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European Aerospace giant Airbus is now the sole vendor in the Coast Guard’s ongoing procurement process for a new twin-engine heavy helicopter, according to The Economic Times.

For a variety of offshore security and surveillance responsibilities, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) wants 14 new helicopters for which bidding had begun last year. Airbus offered its H22M chopper and Russia pitched the Kamov KA 32A11M.

Now with Russia withdrawing from the $1 billion competition to deliver twin-engine helicopters to the Indian Coast Guard, Airbus is the only player in the race. Russia has not provided any official explanation for its withdrawal.

Despite the American Sikorsky S92 chopper meeting all technical requirements in a test conducted in 2018 under a previous tender, the United States did not make an offer to the ICG alongside Airbus and the Russians.

The Italian Leonardo could also not take a part in the contest as the ban on it has been removed by the Indian government only recently.

File:HAL Chetak of the Indian Coast Guard.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
HAL Chetak operated by the Indian Coast Guard (via Wikipedia)

The Coast Guard has been attempting to obtain the helicopters since 2012, but prior attempts have failed, owing to technical and commercial issues. The most recent effort in 2018 fell through after claims of private documents were leaked.

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Interestingly, the Airbus helicopter was chosen in the previous competition before it was canceled in 2018. Disagreements between the Indian Defense Ministry and Airbus over commercial bid led to the deal being shelved, according to The Print.

Advanced Light Helicopters ALH Mk-III (via Twitter)

Last year, the Indian Coast Guard received 3 Advanced Light Helicopters ALH Mk-III, which were built by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). However, the need for heavy choppers persisted.

The Airbus H225M 

The H225M, which was formerly called EC725 Caracal, is a multi-purpose and versatile military asset, allowing military personnel to deploy anywhere and whenever they are required. This aircraft can operate from ships and land – even in icy circumstances – and has all-weather capability thanks to night vision goggle compatibility.

Airbus H225M - best MultiRole helicopter - YouTube
The Airbus H225M

With air-to-air or hover in-flight refueling options, the helicopter’s impressive 700-mile range can be increased. The H225M’s five-blade rotor, powered by two Makila 2A1 engines, delivers unusually low vibration, and the modular Spheriflex design of rotor’s mechanical assembly allows for minimal maintenance.

The H225M is capable of performing a wide range of military missions like tactical transport, casualty / medical evacuation, special operations and combat search and rescue, according to Airbus.

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The 11-metric-tonne H225M, arguably the most advanced member of Airbus’ military Super Puma/Cougar family, has proven its reliability and durability in combat and crisis areas such as Lebanon, Afghanistan, Chad, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Somalia, and Mali, as well as supporting NATO-led operations in Libya.

Russian Kamov Ka-32A11M

The Ka-32A11M is an enhanced variant of the Ka-32A11BC and belongs to the Ka-32 helicopter family. The Kamov Design Bureau of Russian Helicopters JSC developed the all-weather multifunctional civil ‘Ka-32’ with coaxial rotors and an MTOW of 11 tons. It is certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Russian Ka-32A11M (via Twitter)

The Ka-32A11M was unveiled at the Russian MAKS-2021 Aviation and Space Salon for the first time. The modernization of Ka-32 includes a “glass cockpit” with an onboard avionics system, more powerful VK-2500PS-02 engines, and a new fire extinguishing system.

The VK-2500PS-02 engines will greatly increase the helicopter’s flight performance in hot and mountainous environments. According to designers’ calculations, the helicopter’s load-carrying capability can improve by around 1600 kg in such situations.

The Ka-32A11M can carry 7 tons of cargo, up from 5 tons on the previous model. The helicopter can take off and land with one engine during an emergency and stay airborne for 30 minutes.

For ferry flights, two additional 500-liter (132-gallon) fuel tanks are planned. The Ka-32A11M includes two SP-32 water tanks with a 4-ton capacity and digital control for increased firefighting efficiency.

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The KRET avionics of the Ka-32A11M is based on the core developed for the enhanced Ansat and uses elements that have been validated on the Mi-38 and Ka-62. There are three multifunction displays on it.

The Indian Coast Guard has so far operated the aging Chetaks as well as the Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) Dhruv for its surveillance and maritime reconnaissance needs. However, now that Russia is out of the fray, Airbus could become the supplier of 14 heavy helicopters that could significantly enhance the Coast Guard’s capability.