Discussions over technology to be brought in from Russia is pushing back signing of the contract for the manufacture of Kamov Ka-226T Helicopters in India.
While the terms under which a new company, the Indo-Russian Helicopters Limited (IRHL) was formed, stipulates that the indigenous content should be to the extent of 70 % the closest the local content was coming up to was 62.4% that too in Phase 4- the last phase in which the indigenous content is expected to be the maximum.
IRHL is a joint venture between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Rosoboronexport. HAL Chairman and managing director (CMD), R. Madhavan said during a press conference at Aero India 2021 that he expected the gap to be bridged as discussions with the Russian side was continuing and was optimistic that the agreement would be signed soon.
The indigenization would be spread over four phases to manufacture 140 helicopters. In Phase 1, 35 helicopters would be manufactured with 3.3% indigenization, in Phase 2 this would go up to 15% for 25 helicopters, Phase 3 would call for 35% indigenization for 30 helicopters followed by 70% localization in Phase 4 for the 50 helicopters.
In 2015, India and Russian governments signed up to manufacture for 200 Ka-226T helicopters estimated to cost over $1 billion. The Kamov-226T is meant to replace the Cheetah and Chetak fleets of the Indian Army and the Air Force.
Of the 200 helicopters, 60 are meant to be manufactured at the Russian Helicopters (RH) plant in Ulan Ude. RH announced at the end of 2020 that manufacturing had commenced for the first few helicopter airframes for the Indian order.
A big take away from the press conference was that the engine would continue to be sourced from French company Safran. The Arrius 2G1 engine will power the India-specific Ka-226T helicopter. Earlier it was speculated that the engine would be denied to Russia due to European Union sanctions against Moscow. Russia has already commenced developing a substitute engine, the VK-650V a take-off power of 650 hp.
Madhavan said that the Safran engine and control systems being sourced from another Western firm would not count towards indigenization.