New Delhi, Dec 29: Russia's Rostech State Corporation has tied up with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for manufacture of at least 200 Kamov 226T light helicopters to replace the ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak, in a deal estimated to be worth USD one billion under 'Make in India' initiative.
"The agreement with India is the result of the long work with our Indian partners," CEO of Rostec, Sergei Chemezov, said.
"The organization for the manufacture of helicopters is provided by the creation of a Russian-Indian joint venture in India, which includes holdings of Rostec-JSC 'Rosoboronexport' and 'Russian Helicopters", and on the India side the corporation 'HAL' (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)," he said.
This is the first Russian-Indian high-tech project implemented by the Indian government within the framework of the 'Make in India' programme.
During the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Moscow, an agreement was signed between the two countries on cooperation in the field of helicopter manufacturing. The document was signed in the presence of Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the document, Rostec will organize in India the production of Russian Ka-226T and its modifications in the amount of not less than 200 units.
The agreement also provides for maintenance, operation and repair of helicopters. Chemezov said that in future, the programme can be extended and both partners are considering the possibility of joint access to other markets as well.
Incidentally, Modi is set to inaugurate a new helicopter production facility of HAL at Tumkur in Karnataka on Sunday.
Sources said that while the facility would be used for manufacture of Advanced Light Helicopters, Kamov could also be built there.
Defence Ministry had in August last year scrapped a scam-tainted tender worth over Rs 6,000 crore to procure 197 light utility helicopters for army and air force to replace the fleet of Cheetah and Chetak choppers, which are used to move troops and equipment to high-altitude locations like Siachen.
Following Russia's offer to manufacture Kamov in India, the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, accepted it. Though the initial order is only for 200 helicopters, it is likely to be increased later on.
In a report submitted to Parliament recently, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said that out of the 181 Cheetah/Chetak helicopters held by the Army, 51 were 40 years or older and 78 were between 30-40 years old.
A group of army officers wives had in March this year urged the Defence Minister to stop the use of "outdated" Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, which have claimed a number of lives in mishaps.