Rus­sia to re­vamp ro­tor­craft strat­egy in In­dia


Once a dom­i­nant force in the In­dian mil­i­tary heli­copter space, Rus­sia is a dwin­dling force now. With a se­ries of cru­cial loss in pres­ti­gious ro­tor­craft com­pe­ti­tions in In­dia, SP’s M.A.I. has learnt that Rus­sian He­li­copters JSC, the um­brella com­pany that mar­kets Rus­sian-built he­li­copters, has de­cided to re­vamp its strat­egy and will shortly be brain­storm­ing to roll out new plans as far as the In­dian mar­ket is con­cerned. Over the last decade, Rus­sia has man­aged to shore up or­ders for Mi-17V5s: a $1.3-bil­lion or­der for 80 he­li­copters in 2008—36 of which have been de­liv­ered so far—a re­cent or­der for 12 more Mi-17V5s (three in VVIP con­fig­u­ra­tion and 9 for the In­dian Coast Guard) and is ex­pect­ing a fol­low-on or­der for 59 more such he­li­copters shortly from the IAF. The IAF op­er­ates roughly 150-160 Mi-17s and Mi-8s. Next year, the IAF will re­tire its en­tire fleet of Mi-8 he­li­copters, which have reached the end of their tech­ni­cal life.

On the other hand, Rus­sia has lost a slew of deals. In Oc­to­ber last year, the Rus­sian Mi-28NE Night Hunter and Mi-26T2 lost cru­cial IAF at­tack heli­copter and heavy-lift heli­copter com­pe­ti­tions to Boe­ing’s AH-64D Apache Block III and CH-47F Chi­nook re­spec­tively. The coun­try’s Ka-226T Sergei, cur­rently in a pitched bat­tle against the Euro­copter AS 550 C3 Fen­nec for the 197 re­con­nais­sance and sur­veil­lance heli­copter (RSH) com­pe­ti­tion, could be dis­ap­pointed given that the pro­cure­ment is re­port­edly in a state of in­def­i­nite drift, with a de­ci­sion un­likely any­time soon.

RusHeliCo’s new strat­egy will in­clude ex­pand­ing into the civil sec­tor in a big way. Part of this in­cludes pitch­ing its plat­forms to off­shore op­er­a­tors in the en­ergy sec­tor, a mar­ket cur­rently dom­i­nated by Rus­sia’s com­peti­tors in­clud­ing Agus­taWest­land, Euro­copter and Siko­rsky. “We are in­volved in ne­go­ti­a­tions with them. Our he­li­copters op­er­ate very well in harsh cli­mates serv­ing en­ergy op­er­a­tors in our home coun­try,” Rus­sian He­li­copters HCS Chief Dmitry Petrov said at the Aero In­dia show in Fe­bru­ary.

The fo­cus of this ini­tia­tive will be the up­graded civil medium Mi-171A2, the lat­est ver­sion of the Mi-8/17 se­ries. “The Mi-171A2 com­bines the best per­for­mance of its leg­endary pre­de­ces­sors with lead­ing-edge tech­nolo­gies. Al­most 200 Mi-8/17s op­er­ate in In­dia, and de­mand for th­ese he­li­copters re­mains strong. Rus­sian He­li­copters re­cently signed an­other con­tract for Mi-17V5 he­li­copters with the In­dian Air Force; the con­tract is ex­pected to be ful­filled in 2013,” says the com­pany. Signs of com­mit­ment to­wards the new strat­egy are al­ready show­ing.

When Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin vis­ited In­dia in De­cem­ber 2012, Rus­sian He­li­copters, and El­com Sys­tems Pri­vate Lim­ited, part of the In­dian in­vest­ment con­glom­er­ate SUN Group, en­tered into an agree­ment to set up a mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in In­dia to pro­duce Kamov and Mi-brand he­li­copters. “The joint ven­ture will have the ca­pac­ity to pro­duce key heli­copter units and carry out fi­nal as­sem­bly of the machines as well as en­gage in ground and flight test­ing. It is ex­pected that the en­ter­prise will start with pro­duc­tion of com­po­nents for the multi-role Ka-226T heli­copter. The en­ter­prise will serve as an in­dus­trial base for high-tech Rus­sian ro­tor­craft prod­ucts in In­dia,” the com­pany has stated. “In­dia is a tra­di­tional part­ner of Rus­sian He­li­copters in terms of heli­copter de­liv­er­ies. The cre­ation of a joint Rus­sian-In­dian en­ter­prise marks a new stage and also a log­i­cal con­tin­u­a­tion of our joint ef­forts in light of the grow­ing de­mand for Rus­sian heli­copter models,” said Dmitry Petrov, CEO of Rus­sian He­li­copters.

Apart from the civil strat­egy, Rus­sian He­li­copters plans to re­main on the side­lines of the cur­rent In­dian com­pe­ti­tions, in case New Delhi de­cides oth­er­wise.

Mi-17V5 heli­copter

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