A visit to Russia by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 23 and 24 sealed an agreement between the two countries on helicopter engineering, including the big Ka-226 deal that has been under negotiation for over a year. It was one of 16 bilateral pacts that were signed, including ones covering space exploration and satellites and nuclear and solar energy. But they did not include an agreement for Russia to supply S-400 air defense systems, despite previous speculation in some media.
Referring to the supply of approximately 200 Kamov Ka-226T helicopters, Sergei Chemov, CEO of the Russian state-owned industrial conglomerate Rostec, said: “This is the first Russian-Indian high-tech project implemented by the Indian government within the framework of the ‘Make in India’ program.” The helicopters will be manufactured via a Russian-Indian joint venture in India that includes Rostec, Rosoboronexport, Russian Helicopters and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). Details of the transfer of technology being offered have yet to be revealed.
Reliance Defence Ltd had expected to be the Indian production partner, rather than HAL, and had been making plans to build a large manufacturing and assembly facility at Nagpur.
As a boost to the deal, Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation stone for HAL’s new helicopter manufacturing facility, 100 km from Bengaluru, on January 3. A government official told AIN HAL would be the lead integrator, but there was still no clarity on the scope of work that HAL would outsource. India’s army and air force are in urgent need of light utility helicopters to replace their aging Chetaks (Aerospatiale SA316 Alouette III) and Cheetahs (SA315B Alouette II/III mix). Additionally, Kamov is believed to have offered modifications to the Ka-226T to meet a requirement for more than 100 naval utility helicopters.
Speculation that the S-400 deal would be signed was prompted by its approval just days before the visit by India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by defense minister Manohar Parrikar, and by a statement from Reliance Defence that it had signed a manufacturing and maintenance agreement with Almaz-Antey, the Russian missile house that produces the S-400 system. The DAC cleared purchase of five regiments of S-400s valued at approximately $6 billion. Modernization of India’s aging 24 S-125M Pechora surface-to-air missile systems worth $180 million is another deal that was expected but not announced.