NEW DELHI: In a bid to replace the Army’s ageing chopper fleet, the lifeline for soldiers deployed in high-altitude areas, India and Russia are all set to seal a deal to manufacture 200 Kamov 226T helicopters in India.
According to defence sources, the deal worth nearly $1 billion is likely to be signed on the sidelines of the BRICS 2016 Summit in Goa on October 14-16.
According to a statement by Rostec State Corporation, an umbrella organisation of about 700 Russian firms founded in 2007 to promote the development, production and export of high-tech industrial products for civil and military purposes, “The complex agreement to set up a joint production facility of Ka-226T helicopters is expected to be signed at the BRICS forum.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his December 2015 visit to Moscow, signed a preliminary contract to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak light utility helicopters. A variety of negotiations on the expansion of the military, including technical cooperation and fortification of trade relations with India, will be held. In 2012, the Army headquarters had written a letter to the office of then defence minister A K Antony, in which it highlighted that some of the obsolete issues dogging the fleet were component failures, low reliability, accidents and increased structural failures.
The Army went on to say that the Cheetah/Chetak helicopters had vitually become “death traps”. According to an official, as many as 12 pilots lost their life in Cheetah helicopter crashes in the recent past. There are about 250 Cheetahs/Chetaks in service at present with the Army aviation corps. The airframe life of the light-utility helicopter is about 4,500 hours, but most of the Cheetahs that the Army has have logged over 6,000 flying hours.