MRF forays into manufacture of tyres for Chetak helicopters

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Chennai, Aug 28 (UNI) MRF Limited, the largest tyre manufacturer in the country, today announced its foray into the niche area of developing and manufacturing of aviation tyres for Chetak helicopters.

Refusing to give any figures and the quantum of orders placed by the Defence establishment, MRF Managing Director K M Mammen told reporters here that ''when we were approached by the Defence Ministry, we took it up as a technological challenge and we succeeded in it.'' He said after intensive ground trials and flight trials, the Centre for Military Airworthiness Certification (CEMILAC) and the Regional Centre for Military Airworthiness (RCMA) have issued the prototype along with the provisional certificate for commercial production of these tyres, which has been branded ''Aero Muscle.'' The tyre with a size of 355 x 150 4-ply is an outcome of MRF's in house development through its R and D facility in Chennai and the critical raw materials were sourced from overseas suppliers.

Refusing to divulge the order value both in terms of revenue and number of tyres, Mr Mammen said besides Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the manufacturer of Chetak helicopters, MRF is also holding discussions with other defence services like Air Force, Navy and the Coast Guard.

Hitherto, the Chetaks were using imported tyres.

To a question, he said MRF has so far invested Rs 125 crore into it.

It will soon set up a separate plant in Andhra Pradesh for manufacturing of these tyres, which will also be exported to Global market. ''We are on talks with Euro Copter project.'' ''It's a terrific run-off. But the country needs it (indigenous aviation tyres) to achieve self-sufficiency in all sectors.'' Since the project calls for huge investments, MRF has approached the Central government to part fund the project.

Asked whether the project would be viable, Mr mammen said the viability depends on how the demand picks up.

''If the demand increase, we will go for massive expansion,'' To a question on whether MRF will increase the prices of tyres due to spiralling prices of rubber and crude oil, Mr Mammen ruled out immediate hike and said ''we will increase the prices slowly.'' UNI GV AK AS1514

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