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India, Russia revive plans for helicopter venture

16 February 2017

India and Russia have revived plans for a joint venture to make light helicopters in India, a proposal made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015.

India, which badly needs to replace its ageing fleet of utility helicopters deployed along its northern and north-eastern borders with China as well as in Jammu and Kashmir region, wants the Russian Kamov-226 helicopters to be locally manufactured.

The plan is to initially place an order for 200 Kamov-226 helicopters, of which 140 will be built in India as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plans to build a domestic defence industrial base and cut imports.

The final documents relating to the $1 billion Kamov deal, involving Russian Helicopter manufacturer Rosoboronexport and India's state-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has been submitted to Putin, HAL's chief T Suvarna Raju, told reporters on Wednesday.

While India has sealed deals with the United States for 22 Apache attack and 15 heavy lift Chinook helicopters at total cost of about $2.5 billion,

Besides plans to buy Russian helicopters the two sides have not abandoned plans for joint production of fifth generation fighter aircraft, although plane plans have been dogged by problems,

"There are issues between parties, but these are being tackled," Sergey Goreslavsky, deputy director general of Rosoboronexport, said at the `Aero India 2017' air show in the Bengaluru.

He said a team will assess the Indian manufacturing facilities over the next few months. "We are keeping our fingers crossed about launching production this year," an executive at Russian Helicopters said.

He said the joint venture will be modelled along the lines of Brahmos, the India-Russia entity producing supersonic missiles, which military analysts say are among the deadliest in their class.

Russia was long the main supplier of military equipment to India, but Delhi has turned to France, Israel and increasingly the United States for supply of hardware in recent years, especially in the wake of poor show of the MiG planes.

US aerospace and defence firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing have both offered to set up production lines in India to make combat planes.

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