New Delhi, 07 November 2006
military is on the verge of sealing multi-million dollar deals for
procurement of more than 300 helicopters of various types from
overseas markets in the next ten years. These ambitious acquisitions
will be in addition to local production of HAL Dhruv choppers.
The biggest deal
will involve acquisition of around 190 armed aero scout helicopters
for which Bell Textron's 407 ARH (armed reconnaissance helicopter)
and Eurocopter’s AS 550C3 Fennec helicopters are in the race.
Both are undergoing trials likely to be completed by next year.
Competition is expected to be stiff as the two are very competent
and proven machines and serve a number of users world-wide.
The Bell Textron
chopper holds a position of strength as it is already in production
for the US army as its main ARH type, replacing the long serving
OH-58 Kiowa Warriors. The wining model will be equipped with
a turret mounted optronics sensors, secure communications suite, a
combined pulse Doppler GPS navigation suite, automatic direction
finder, distance measuring equipment, marker beacon transponder,
three axis auto hover system, plus twin 2.75 rocket pods and 20 mm
gun ponds. This acquisition process marks a new thinking in the Army
on a much expanded role for army aviation and its willingness to
break free to a certain degree from its dependence on IAF helicopter
squadrons for meeting combat and logistical needs. The Army plans to
buy 60 helicopters outright with the remainder to be built under
license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The Indian Air
Force is also on the lookout for a medium lift helicopter to replace
its ageing force of Mi-8 choppers. The MI-8 forms the backbone of
its helicopter units (HU) and currently constitutes the No. 105,
107, 109, 110, 112 and 118 HU. It is also a regular workhorse of the
IAF and suffers high utilization due to routine disaster management
and search & rescue deployments. The IAF is to acquire 80 Mi-17-IV
helicopters from Russia in a deal worth $660 million. Orders could
be placed by the end of this year and the programme calls for the
acquisition process to be completed by 2008. If the deal comes
through it would be a continuation of the acquisitions begun in 2000
when India had acquired 40 Mi-17 helicopters worth $170 million.
HAL Dhruv is also emerging from the shadows of recent problems when
the whole fleet was grounded following a crash in November last
year. HAL plans to progressively upgrade them starting with a new
power pack in the form of the Indo-French Shakti engine with
15 percent more power to replace the existing TM-333 by next year.
The air force plans to introduce Dhruv to regular Siachen service
through the 117 HU which has converted to Dhruv from Mi-8. The Army
also plans to induct armed versions of Dhruv, which are expected to
sport hardened rotor components and Israeli optronics and targeting
equipment for all-weather day/night operations. The defence Ministry
is understood to have given nods for 39 such choppers for the Army
with orders expected to be placed on HAL in the near future
release via PIB- http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp
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