Buoyant helicopter market in India
Araft of helicopter makers such as Boeing, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and AgustaWestland are aggressively pursuing the Indian market, both civil and military. The fact that the Indian armed forces are upgrading their ageing fleet and also the huge ramp-up that is expected to happen in the civilian segment, augurs well for the helicopter industry.
In fact, the civil helicopter market in India has come alive thanks to the armed forces. The offset obligations are set to spur further deals which will have a bearing on both military and civil segments. The military sector continues to represent the biggest business opportunity even while the other government sector, i.e. Homeland Security, is expected to boost the requirement of helicopters. The Indian helicopter market will be a favourite hunting ground for all global aerospace majors manufacturing rotarywing machines.
In SP’s Exclusives, we have a couple of stories related to the helicopter segment starting with the report on the arrival next month of the first of the 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for VVIP transport acquired for the Air HQ Communication Squadron. The new helicopters will replace the old Mi-8/17s, currently used as executive transport for the President, Prime Minister, senior functionaries of the government and visiting dignitaries.
Alongside, we have a report on how the recently floated Naval Utility Helicopter programme is likely to be fought closely with as many as five contenders. Indeed, the going is good for the helicopter industry and there is anticipation that the government would take positive steps on easing restrictions on procurement of helicopters specifically for the civilian segment.
Away from helicopters, the Indian Air Force (IAF) got its first of three modified Embraer EMB 145 Airborne Early Warning and Control System aircraft last week. The aircraft flew in with mission system external components developed by DRDO including the platform’s primary sensor, an active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna with passive electronics fitted on the aircraft. This platform will be a true force multiplier and will add a new capability to the IAF.
In his frank and forthright column, Air Marshal (Retd) B.K. Pandey has talked about the defence procurement procedures. As brought out by him that while the DPP may have been crafted with the noble and laudable objective of eliminating all possibility of manipulation or misdemeanour in the acquisition of defence hardware, there is an imperative need to balance its rigid framework with the required degree of flexibility to obviate undue delay in the interest of national security. Indeed, there is urgent and unquestionable need to cut delay in the finalisation of deals for weapon systems such as that of Rafale MMRCA which is so critical to national security.
Lt General (Retd) P.C. Katoch has given his views on the Naresh Chandra Committee’s recommendation for setting up a separate Special Forces Command.
Talking about national security, there is a report from the government that there has been a marginal decline in incidents of damage to economic infrastructure by left-wing extremism in the country during the last three years. Such incidents have come down in the current year (up to July 31) also, compared to the corresponding period of 2011. That is good, but more needs to be done on the ground, development-wise and security-wise, to improve the situation.