Russian President Vladimir Putin has given the go-ahead for India-Russia joint production of Kamov military helicopters in India under a $1-billion government-to-government deal signed in 2015.
The two countries had, in October last year, finalised a broad agreement for the joint venture between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and two Russian defence majors.
HAL, Russian Helicopters and Rosoboronexport will now sign an MoU to complete the formalities for setting up the joint venture, defence ministry sources said.
Of the 200 Kamov-226T helicopters to be supplied to India under the deal, 60 will be supplied to India in fly-away condition, while the remaining 140 will be manufactured in India.
The two countries had finalised a $1-billion inter-government agreement to manufacture the helicopters in India at the Indo-Russian Summit in Goa in October 2016. It was in December 2015 that India announced that the Kamov-226T would be the copter of choice.
According to the agreement, Kamov-HAL will be producing 200 of the Kamov 226-T copters at a cost of nearly Rs6,500 crore, or Rs32 crore per copter, in India.
However, India would require nearly 800 such light utility helicopters to replace an ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters that have lived beyond the threshold by more than 12-15 years.
These helicopters purchased from France and inducted into the Indian Army over 40 years ago in 1971, needs to be urgently replaced.
The Army has been making efforts to replace its ageing fleet of light utility helicopters for the last 15 years.
These light utility helicopters are the lifeline of the armed forces especially for high altitude operations, where roads are inadequate or inaccessible for the supply of ration, equipment, weapons and for evacuation in case of casualties.
The current helicopter fleet of the Army is so obsolete that they have virtually become ''death traps''. As many as 20 pilots have lost their life in the Cheetah crashes in the recent years.
There are about 250 Cheetahs / chetak 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. The engine life of the chopper is 1750 hours and most have gone past that too.