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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Aero India Opens With More Questions Than Answers

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

Indian Defense Minister AK Antony opened the 9th Aero India airshow on Wednesday at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bangalore. The growth of the Indian aerospace sector has attracted more than 600 companies and 78 declared international delegations to the event. The start was marked by a flypast of three Russian Mi-8 helicopters trooping the Indian national flag, the Indian Air Force (IAF) ensign and the Aero India flag.

 

Indian Air Force Sarange team during an air display on the first day of Aero India 2013.

 

While there is a real need for several fleets of modern helicopters throughout the armed forces, procurement programs have been slow to evolve and have suffered delays. India urgently wants to grow its indigenous aviation sector but a lack of clarity and the need for program timeline extensions remains a cause of friction with international OEMs.

The decision last December by the Indian Air Force to name Boeing as the L1 vendor for the acquisition of 15 Boeing CH-47F Chinooks and 22 AH-64E Apaches ($1.4 billion) ahead of Russia’s Kamov Mi-26T2 and Mi-28 Night Hunters still requires final negotiations. There is discussion about the Army getting the attack helicopters, although both services want them.

 

HAL Dhruv. Photos by Andrew Drwiega

 

The first three of 12 AgustaWestland AW101s arrived in India at the end of last year. A further nine are scheduled for delivery during the middle of 2013. The aircraft are to be used to transport VVIP’s, including the Prime Minister.

However, there is an outstanding accusation of bribery, which, if substantiated, will incur “penalty measures,” according to Defence Minister AK Antony.

 

HAL Rudra advanced light helicopter on display at Aero India.

 

There is still a competition to fulfill a $2-billion need for 197 light reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters (RSH) for the Army and Air Force. These would be used for high-altitude and multirole tasks and the two contenders, Eurocopter AS550 C2 Fennec and Kamov Ka-226, have been playing a waiting game after numerous time extensions were required on their bids. Flight trials have been completed but recent comments before the airshow by Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne suggest this delay shows no sign of being over soon.

Supporting the RSH is another requirement for around 184 light utility helicopters (from an initial requirement of 384 for the Army and Air Force to replace the aged Cheetah and Chetak helicopters). The order is supposed to be met by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) with a first flight of the aircraft still proposed for 2013.
Related: Military News

 

HAL light combat helicopter (LCH).

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