VIEWS

SP's Aviation - - NEWS - —BY AIR MAR­SHAL B.K. PANDEY (RETD)

On Septem­ber 28, 2015, the Min­istry of De­fence signed a $1 bil­lion con­tract with Boe­ing for the pro­cure­ment of 15 Chi­nook CH-47F heavy-lift heli­copters, the iconic Amer­i­can work­horse, for the IAF. Apart from the heli­copters, the con­tract in­cludes train­ing, lo­gis­tic and main­te­nance sup­port. The Chi­nook will re­place the Rus­sian Mi-26 heavy-lift heli­copters that have be­come prac­ti­cally de­funct. The IAF badly needs in­duc­tion of new plat­forms in this cat­e­gory.

As per the con­tract, Boe­ing is re­quired to de­liver the first Chi­nook he­li­copter in three years i.e. in Septem­ber 2018 and the last one be­fore the end of four years i.e. by Septem­ber 2019. How­ever, it ap­pears that is go­ing to de­lay in the de­liv­ery sched­ule. But the fact that pi­lots and flight en­gi­neers of the IAF have al­ready com­menced train­ing in the US, sug­gests that the de­lay in the de­liv­ery sched­ule may not be in­or­di­nate. Also, the first of the 15 Chi­nook heli­copters pro­duced for the IAF, has car­ried out its maiden flight, cross­ing of an im­por­tant mile­stone.

As per Pratyush Ku­mar, Pres­i­dent Boe­ing In­dia, the IAF will re­ceive the most ad­vanced ver­sion of the Chi­nook which is a mul­ti­mis­sion he­li­copter cur­rently op­er­ated by the US Army and the armed forces of 18 other coun­tries. In­duc­tion of this plat­form into the IAF will be a land­mark event as it will be a ma­jor change in its force struc­ture that has tra­di­tion­ally been com­posed of Rus­sian plat­forms. This con­tract will also help strengthen the po­si­tion of the US as the sec­ond largest arms sup­plier for In­dia af­ter Rus­sia.

The Chi­nook is a twin-en­gine, heavy-lift plat­form with two con­tra-ro­tat­ing main ro­tors and is em­ployed for trans­porta­tion of troops, heavy ar­tillery and out­size equip­ment. Its devel­op­ment be­gan in 1957 by Amer­i­can ro­tor­craft com­pany Ver­tol and was later man­u­fac­tured by Boe­ing. This he­li­copter first flew in the Viet­nam War and there­after, has con­tin­u­ously evolved in de­sign and ca­pa­bil­ity. To­day, it is one of the world’s most ca­pa­ble heavy-lift heli­copters that, apart from air­lift­ing heavy loads, can trans­port com­bat-ready troops and haul un­der-slung 155 mil­lime­tre How­itzer to sup­port troops at al­ti­tudes up to 15,000 feet.

The heli­copters or­dered will be de­liv­ered in fly-away con­di­tion and the con­tract will be fol­lowed up by “Off­set Obli­ga­tion” un­der which the Boe­ing will be re­quired to in­vest in the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try, 30 per cent of the value of the con­tract which will amount to $300 mil­lion. This will be a sig­nif­i­cant boost to the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try es­pe­cially in the pri­vate sec­tor. Boe­ing al­ready has tie ups with a num­ber of com­pa­nies in the pri­vate sec­tor of the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try for the man­u­fac­ture of com­po­nents for their air­craft be­ing man­u­fac­tured out­side In­dia. Ben­galuru-based Dy­na­mat­ics Tech­nolo­gies builds the aft py­lon and cargo ramps for the global sup­ply chain and caters for ev­ery CH-47 Chi­nook he­li­copter built to­day. Ros­sell Tech­sys based in White­field, Ben­galuru, fab­ri­cates wire har­nesses for the Chi­nook he­li­copter.

Tata Ad­vanced Sys­tems Lim­ited (TASL) based in Hy­der­abad, is al­ready en­gaged in man­u­fac­tur­ing crown and tail cones for CH-47 Chi­nook heli­copters for the US Army as well as for in­ter­na­tional cus­tomers.

Boe­ing and TASL have re­cently an­nounced the de­liv­ery of the first crown and tail cone as­sem­bly for the In­dian con­fig­u­ra­tion of the Chi­nook he­li­copter. Man­u­fac­tured by TASL in Hy­der­abad, these parts will be de­liv­ered to Boe­ing for fi­nal as­sem­bly of the 15 heli­copters for de­liv­ery to the IAF. “This de­liv­ery is an­other sig­nif­i­cant step in our jour­ney to in­crease de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity and man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­ity out of In­dia with our strate­gic part­ners,” said Pratyush Ku­mar, Pres­i­dent, Boe­ing In­dia. “TASL has demon­strated the abil­ity to de­liver high-qual­ity com­po­nents to the CH-47 Chi­nook pro­gramme on sched­ule, which in turn helps Boe­ing meet com­mit­ments to our cus­tomers,” he said. “We are clearly in­vested in lever­ag­ing the full po­ten­tial of ca­pa­bil­ity that ex­ists in In­dia to con­tinue de­liv­er­ing greater value at lower cost to our US and in­ter­na­tional cus­tomers,” Ku­mar said. Boe­ing says that the com­pany is in the search for ad­di­tional In­dian ven­dors for build­ing sev­eral more com­po­nents.

Ac­qui­si­tion of the CH-47F Chi­nook fleet, will not only en­hance the op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity of the IAF, it will also con­trib­ute sub­stan­tially to the growth of the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try in the pri­vate sec­tor. IAF pi­lots and flight en­gi­neers al­ready un­der­go­ing train­ing in the US, is good news and a healthy sign that the pro­ject for the in­duc­tion of the Chi­nook into the IAF is on track!

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