“Make in India” challenge for Kamov helicopter - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 17 January 2016

“Make in India” challenge for Kamov helicopter

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th Jan 16

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow last month yielded an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on supplying the Kamov-226T light helicopter to India’s military, both sides are struggling to meet the challenging “Make in India” requirement of building 50 per cent of the helicopter in India.

Neither side is willing to speak on the record, but Russian sources tell Business Standard that Moscow has accepted responsibility only for indigenizing Russian components, which would fall short of the indigenisation level required.

These sources say the IGA requires New Delhi to negotiate separately with third country vendors for indigenising their components and systems, which make up about two-third of the Kamov-226T. Russian Helicopters, which has developed the Kamov-226T, has sourced its twin engines --- which constitute one-third of the chopper’s cost --- from French company, Turbomeca. Other key systems and avionics have been sourced from the global market.

HAL sources confirm: “We will have to work with third-country suppliers and co-co-opt them into the indigenization effort to meet the  “Make in India” goals.

Adding to the difficulty, the IGA permits Russian Helicopters to deliver the first 60 helicopters in flyaway condition.

These would be assembled entirely in Russia, with little scope for indigenisation. That would also be the case with the next 40 or so helicopters, shipped as kits from Russia to be assembled in India.

That leaves just 100 helicopters for meeting the 50 per cent “Make in India” goals over the entire fleet of 200.

HAL, along with other Indian manufacturers, is negotiating with third-party suppliers outside Russia to build Kamov-226T components and systems in India. Bharat Forge is understood to be in talks with Turbomeca to part-build the Kamov-226T’s engines in India.

Russian sources say the Kamov-226T indigenization has been complicated by an unusually detailed IGA. Traditionally, IGAs consist only of broad statements of intent.

This IGA, unprecedentedly, mandates an Indo-Russian joint venture (JV) for building the helicopter, with a 50.5 per cent stake for HAL, and a 49.5 per cent stake for Russian Helicopters. HAL is permitted to co-opt an Indian vendor with part of its stake.

According to Russian sources closely involved in negotiating this IGA, “It forms a new model of cooperation between India and Russia, developed specifically for the Kamov-226T.

The IGA specifies a nine-year period for delivering 200 Kamov-226T helicopters, which begins from the signature of the contract. That amounts to an unambitious 22 helicopters a year.

The defence ministry believes that India’s military, and civilian users like ONGC, Pawan Hans and corporates, will require about 600 new light helicopters when the venerable Chetak/Cheetah is phased out. But the Kamov-226T will have to compete for this market with HAL’s new Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), which is ready to make its first flight.

Business Standard found, during a recent visit to HAL, that the LUH is on track to make its first flight by February. According to HAL projections, the LUH would complete flight certification by mid-2017 and enter production by the year-end.

The defence ministry has assured HAL it will buy about 200 LUH. With the IGA assuring Russian Helicopters that India would buy 200 choppers, the bulk of the order for the remaining 200 would fall to whichever manufacturer delivers 200 helicopters first.

With HAL’s helicopter close to its first flight, planning has begun for production. On January 3, the prime minster laid the foundation stone for HAL’s new facility in Tumkur, where the LUH would be built. Modi declared that the first helicopter built there would take flight by 2018. 


  1. The Kamov announcement appears to have been made as a face saving gesture for Modi/Putin or to perpetuate a facade of defence co-operation with Russia. As things stand with HAL; they are on the hook to deliver Tejas MK1, MK2, Naval Tejas, improve operational efficiency of SU-30 (and Russia is also on the hook with this) and ramp up production of Dhruv. HAL is unlikely be provided with new candies (aka projects) to distract itself; while Russia and India will have manage their defence relationship to a sunset. Barring a sea change in Russia's approach towards India, it has lost the Indian defence market for good. The deafening silence on the part of HAL in the aftermath of the Kamov announcement ought to have been the leading indication of the frivolous nature of that deal. India is increasingly disagreeing to Russia's terms on defence equipment purchases and Russia is likewise rolling back its offers of 'tech transfers' (if they ever happened in the past). Watch France instead; there appears to be a lot on the plate than is being discussed in the media.

  2. Sir when can we expect to see KA-226 heli flying with IAF insignia at earliest? also can you confirm whether MOD already inked the P-17A deal with GRSE,MDL?

  3. HAL will make Kamov and LUH. Effectively, it will compete with its own design. Welcome to more confusion!!

  4. See everyone is talking of first flight of LUH. When will it get certified. It is important we kick start replacement of cheetah & chetaks with KA-226 ASAP.
    Then LUH & KA-226 are based on 2 different technologies. No issues at all.
    Will KA-226 fit better for Indian Navy due its unique design ?

  5. I just don't see how copy-pasting a Kamov on Indian soil (regardless of PSU or private companies) constitutes "Make in India".

    If Reliance manufactures a Dhruv, then that's "Make in India". If L&T manufactures the LuH, then that's "Make in India". Kamov just doesn't fit the bill.

  6. Has the Ka-226 been ever tried out our highest landing grounds? If so with what kind of payload. As of now only the Cheetah can reach Siachen with a very small payload. The Dhruv with a larger payload has tried out, that too with the newer engines, but not sure these have inducted in the IAF.

    While there is a lot of buzz about the LUH, AFAIK it has not been flown as yet.

    There is no word on replacements for the ship borne Chetaks. While the Navy has a lot of experience with the Ka-28s and 31s, overall servicelability (sp?) has been very low.

  7. Thank you for the update.

    An IJT and HTT-40 update will also be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.


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