NEW DELHI — In India's first helicopter competition reserved for domestic defense companies, tie-ups teams have been established between top defense companies Larsen & Toubro with Airbus Helicopters and Tata Advanced Systems with Sikorsky Aircraft to produce a light utility helicopter (LUH).

Other corporate arrangements include Mahindra Defence Systems teaming up with Bell Helicopter and Punj Lloyd with Russian Helicopters. The domestic companies have to respond by Feb. 17 to a request for information (RFI) they received in October to provide the helicopters on a Buy and Make (India) basis in the $2.5 billion tender.

State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited ( HAL) also is negotiating a tie-up with Russian Helicopters. for the LUH program.

None of the overseas or domestic companies would discuss their respond on their partnerships. struck to build light utility helicopters in India.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) official said there is no certainty that surety if the helicopters which will be built by the domestic companies in India in tie up with overseas defense companies would be cheaper than importing them directly.

"The idea is to build capabilities in India to build the defense industrial base and have in-house lifetime support and maintenance," the official added.

While the RFI describes the for the LUH program mentions purchase of 197 light utility helicopters — of which 133 would be for the Indian Army and 64 for the Indian Air Force — (IAF), India has a requirement for more than over 400, LUH, said an Indian Air Force(IAF) official said.

Defense analyst Nitin Mehta, however, is skeptical and is not sure if the program will ever take off in the domestic sector.

"The fresh procurement process for LUH, which has begun after the cancellation of the earlier global tenders, will further delay the acquisition of the much-needed helicopters. The domestic private-sector companies, having no experience in making helicopters and will begin from a scratch, will add to the delay, which will ultimately prove counterproductive," Mehta said.

"At [some point]one time India will have to buy the much-needed LUH from the global market on a fast-track basis," at one time," says Mehta said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, during talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Dec.ember 11, had offered to build in India the Ka 226 LUH for domestic and export purposes. However, the government decided to pursue an follow the open competition. route and not go for a government to government tie up in helicopterproduction.

The RFI says the LUH will be needed for reconnaissance and surveillance, to direct direction of artillery fire, for quick-reaction teams for special missions, aerial photography, serving a scout role in conjunction with attack helicopters, and to monitor nuclear, biological and chemical incidents. ( NBC) monitoring

Whereas no formal arrangement has been struck between the companies on equity sharing basis The tie-ups only represent is only an initial intent to partner in the helicopter tender and become formal only after ; deal. the formal tie ups will begin only when these companies responding to the RFP. when it is floated.

When the Earlier, the Narendra Modi government came after coming to power in May 2014, it had canceled a the 2009 global re-tender to for purchase of 197 numbers of LUHs and instead issued the a Request for Information(RFI) was issued only to domestic defense majors as part of its of a policy to build of the new government to boost domestic industry capabilities. At the time of cancellation of the tender, Eurocopter's (now Airbus Helicopters ) AS550 helicopter was in competition with Russia's Ka-226T built by Kamov. of Russia.

Thereafter, In August, the 2014, MoD had also canceled a the 2012 tender to buy for the purchase of 56 naval utility helicopters in which Airbus Helicopters and AgustaWestland were competing. in the race.


Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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