French aerospace simultaneously lost one contract, but won another last month. India’s decision in favor of the Kamov Ka-226T for its reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter (RSH) requirement was a blow to Airbus Helicopters, but a boon to Turbomeca. The former’s AS550 Fennec was the losing finalist in the long-running RSH contest. But the latter’s Arrius 2G1 turboshafts will power the Ka-226T – replacing the Rolls Royce Allison 250-C20R/2s that powered the baseline Ka-226A.
In early May, India’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the Ka-226T deal that was reached “in principle” during Russian president Vladimir Putin official visit to New Delhi in December 2014. “We expect that an initial order would be up to 200 helicopters (which) will set a record for us and will require closer partnership with the local industry.” said Alexander Mikheyev, general manager of Russian Helicopters. The Ka-226T will be produced under license at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), in accordance with the “Make in India” principle. The Russian side is expecting an official confirmation of the deal to come shortly, he added. Rosoboronexport will be the contract holder.
Speaking to AIN at the HeliRussia 2015 show in Moscow last month, Olivier Andries, chairman and chief executive officer at Turbomeca, said: “our partnership with Russian Helicopters, and with India, is crucial.” He noted that Turbomeca has been in India for 50 years and is currently the supplier of engines for most Indian military helicopters. “Through the Ka-226T project we can develop our presence in this marketplace,” Andries added. He said that although manufacturing details are yet to be agreed, “we will probably follow the guidance of Russian Helicopters, but we have to be compliant with the ‘Make in India’ requirement. So, it may well be that these engines will be assembled in India and partly manufactured there.”
Certified in November 2011, the Arrius 2G develops 804 shaft horsepower at emergency setting, 730 shp at takeoff and 622 shp at maximum continuous mode, compared to the Rolls-Royce Allison’s 450 shp at takeoff and 380 shp at max continuous settings. Due to the French engine’s higher power, the rotorcraft’s maximum takeoff weight has been increased from 3.4 to 3.6 metric tons. The configuration of the Ka-226T may have been the crucial factor in its selection: it is noticeably slower than the Fennec, but hot-and-high performance in mountain areas was a key criteria for India, and the coaxial main-rotor layout takes maximum advantage of engine power. The Ka-226T also features a beefed-up VR-226 gearbox and improved avionics, compared with the original Ka-226. The certification trials of the Arrius 2G were performed on two Ka-226T prototypes.
Indian ambassador in Moscow Pundi Srinivasan Raghavan told the Russian media that India will sign an initial a contract for 197 Ka-226Ts. “Details are being sorted out. It will be a joint Indo-Russian project,” he added. The Indian press reported that the DAC has allocated $470 million for the project. Eventually, the number of Ka-226Ts to be manufactured in India may reach 400-500. Initially, India may take a small number of Ka-226Ts built by Russian Helicopters’ factory KumAPP in Kumertau.
In the wake of the Indian selection, the Russian air force is forming a demonstration-and-utility squadron of these multirole helicopters at Chkalovskaya airbase near Moscow. So far, the service has received 36 Ka-226Vs, placing them all with the pilot training school at Syzran as a tool to prepare students to flying heavier Ka-50/52 strike helicopters. “The new squadron will have 12 Ka-226Vs, with 10 having already been delivered,” Russian Helicopters announced at HeliRussia. Addressing the media, Alexander Mikheyev, general manager at Russian Helicopters, said the Ka-226T has successfully passed trials in Russia and India, and that it represents “an optimal choice for the Indian armed forces.”