India-Russia spar over pricing and transfer of tech in Kamov copters

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India and Russia are having a disagreement over the joint production of the Kamov-226T light utility helicopter which was announced as the first major ‘Make in India’ project some five months ago.

The two-long standing military allies are facing hurdles as Russia is yet to give approval for the project. Top sources told The Tribune that pricing of the copter and technology transfer of the copter through a private Indian partner are the two stumbling blocks.

New Delhi is not satisfied with the price being asked by the Russian side, sources said while adding that the terms of having a private partner were part of the inter government agreement inked in October 2016, during the Narendra Modi-Vladimir Putin meet at Goa. It was in December 2015 that it was first announced that the Kamov-226T will be copter of choice.

The Russians have public sector giant, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), as the Indian partner, however, the Ministry of Defence is looking to have private sector Indian investors to share a part of the contract that India has to execute under a joint venture with Russia.

Kamov-HAL are to produce 200 of the Kamov 226-T copters at a cost of nearly Rs 6,500 crore or Rs 32 crore per copter in India.

The HAL is owned by the Ministry of Defence and has previous experience at making copters.

The Indian forces need some 800 light utility helicopters over the next decade, a demand which cannot be fulfilled by the HAL alone.

The twin-engined Kamov 226-T will replace the single-engine Cheetah/Chetak, usually deployed for surveillance, dropping small loads and for rescue, including of troops posted at forbidding heights such as the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region.

The three services and the Coast Guard currently have 430 Cheetah/Chetaks helicopters. They are based on the 1950s’ designed Alouette Aérospatiale 315B Lama of France.