HAL to set up aircraft maintenance base in Ecuador

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Bangalore, Aug 14 (UNI) Eyeing the lucrative market in South America for its home built aircraft, especially for the Advanced Light Helicopter 'Dhruv', public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is setting up an aircraft maintenance base in Ecuador.

Disclosing this to reporters, after handing over the first HAL built Hawk Mk132 advanced jet trainer, HAL Chairman Ashok K Baweja said the defence major had already supplied seven ALHs to Ecuador which had become the first customer for the indigenously built copter.

"We see South America as a major market for our products. Hence we have started building our maintenance depot at Guayaquil air base South of Ecuadorian capital of Quito. We will be placing 15 to 20 engineers and support staff in this place. This country is likely to place an order for two more ALHs shortly," he said.

He said Turkey had also placed an initial order for three ALHs, while HAL was negotiating with the governments of Jordan, Peru and Bolivia to push forward the sale of ALH.

"Dhruv is doing well in India as well. There are already two helicopter squadrons in the Indian Army and a third would soon be set up. We are well on way to form the fourth squadron," he said.

He said along with the building of Hawk, HAL was persuing its own Intermediate Jet Trainer and it would be fitted with a new Russian engine. HAL was expecting to get two such engines shortly.

Certification would be obtained for the aircraft fitted with these Russian engines, he said.

Mr Baweja said HAL designed and built Advance Combat Helicopter, a lighter copter compared to ALH, would make its first flight in March next year.

HAL had an order book of Rs 53,000 Crores and had on stream seven programmes and seven more were on the pipeline, he added.

The Mark II of the Light Combat Aircraft 'Tejus' had been evolved with a much more powerful engine and the programme would be launched shortly.

UNI RS MSP TS1653

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