HAL and IAI combine talent on Dhruv

 - December 15, 2006, 5:43 AM

One of the international partners growing in importance for Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), which is evidenced by the growing number of cooperative programs between the two firms. One of the most well-known examples is the HAL-designed and -built Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). This helicopter, which can be seen here at Le Bourget in the IAI aircraft park, is equipped with a full suite of avionics from the Tel Aviv based aerospace firm. IAI’s Executive vice president for marketing and business development, Shimon Eckhaus, talked with Aviation International News at Le Bourget about the success of this and other programs with HAL.

“On May 25, we were visited at IAI by HAL’s chairman, Ashok Baweja; the director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense [MoD]; the director of SIBAT [the Israeli MoD arms export agency]; and several other officials to celebrate the contract for IAI to provide a Dhruv for all of the MoD’s VIP flights,” said Eckhaus. “This helicopter will be leased to the MoD as part of our joint venture with HAL that has IAI in charge of marketing the ALH worldwide.”

Eckhaus said the Dhruv has now been certified to fly in Israel and that IAI is now actively discussing a sale to Chile in which the national aeronautical enterprise, Enaer, would be part of the program. (IAI has a history of cooperative projects with Chile, including upgrading many of its fighter aircraft.)

Several other projects now in the works with HAL include:

• Development and sale of a kit to convert Boeing 737 passenger aircraft into freighters;

• Setting up facilities in India for repair and servicing of UAVs;

• A new center in India for the repair of the opto-electronic payloads that are employed on these UAVs.

HAL may also be a doorway through which IAI can expand its presence in the Russian market. Eckhaus and other executives have good relations with many of the Russian firms from their work on adding IAI-systems to the configuration of Russian-made aircraft. Upgrading the Mikoyan MiG-29 is one project that has been examined with interest by IAI. However, there has been some dispute between the two over work that Israeli firms performed on the MiG-21 in the 1990s that RSK-MiG said was unauthorized.

MiG’s new general director, Aleksei Fedorov, knows IAI well from the work the two firms have performed on other projects in India, and there is a sense that the two may now find some common ground for cooperation. “When you look at how much work we have done installing systems on India’s fleet of aircraft, you can see how a partnership with MiG on Indian programs makes a lot of sense for us–as well as a lot of sense for them,” said Eckhaus.