NEW DELHI: Moving ahead on its Rs 6,000-crore 'Make in India' project for military helicopters, Russia has informed the Ministry of Defence about a partnership with Reliance Defence to manufacture Kamov 226T choppers locally.
In a letter sent to the Indian government, Russia has announced an understanding with the subsidiary company of Reliance Infrastructure for the project, indicating that the company could be a lead integrator for the mega contract to manufacture 200 twin-engine helicopters for the Indian Army. While an option to partner with defence public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has also been kept open with the final approval resting with the Indian government, sources said the Russian side has expressed keenness on a joint venture with under a new entity that could be named 'Reliance Helicopters'.
The letter seems to indicate that a partnership that the Russian side had with the Gurgaon-based Sun Group — to execute offsets for an earlier version of the chopper contract — is now over. As reported, India has approved a government to government contract to manufacture 200 light choppers that are urgently needed by the Army for operations in high altitude areas, including the Siachen glacier.
Sources aware of the matter said under the terms of the contract, the entire technology of manufacturing the military choppers will be transferred to an Indian entity and that at least 50% of the machine will be manufactured from parts sources locally.
The Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Defence has applied for a license to manufacture choppers, besides several other military systems, to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). Besides, Gautam Adani's new defence venture has also applied for a similar license.
When contacted on the issue, Reliance Defence spokesperson said the company is 'actively participating in the Make in India program'. "The manufacturing of both military and civil helicopters to meet the needs of the country are a significant part of this commitment," the spokesperson said.
If the Reliance venture goes through, it will be the first time that a private sector entity will be the prime integrator of military choppers in India. In the past, HAL has been manufacturing military choppers, while other players like Tata and Mahindra fabricate parts for foreign manufacturers. HAL is also working on its own version of a light chopper for the armed forces but it has not been able to conduct flight trials as of now.
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