New Delhi: Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) Hindutan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is in talks with French defence major Safran to jointly and indigenously manufacture a new engine that will power India’s plans to have its own medium weight military helicopters.
These new rotary aircraft will replace the Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters in the coming years.
There is also a possibility of a new combat chopper in the same class as the American Apache.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said that the engines will be manufactured to power different types of medium weight helicopters that the HAL is working on to meet the demand of the Air Force, Navy and the Army.
At an event organised by industry chamber FICCI, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said that during his talks with his French counterpart Florence Parly last week, discussions on the engines took place.
The thrust of his talks was to ask French defence firms to either collaborate with Indian companies or simply produce in India.
“I am happy to say that the French government has agreed that a big French company will come to India and produce an engine, currently not made in the country, under the strategic partnership with an Indian company,” he had said at the seminar.
The sources said this was related to helicopter engines and the Indian company that will enter into a strategic partnership with Safran is HAL.
The sources refused to elaborate whether this investment will be part of the offsets that Safran has to complete as part of the Rafale deal.
The HAL currently manufactures the LCH (Light Combat Helicopter) and the multi-role ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter), besides the Chetak choppers.
The sources said that while this is license manufactured by HAL, the new engine will be made under the strategic partnership, which will involve transfer of technology.
HAL is working on a twin-engine, multi-role, multi-mission chopper of about 13-tonne weightage, known as the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH).
This helicopter is meant to replace the various variants of Russian Mi-17 helicopters which are the workhorse of the Indian Air Force, which operates a total of about 250 of them.
The phasing out of the earlier versions of these helicopters are to begin around 2028, with the latest versions, Mi-17 V5 (inducted since 2011), to be the last to be phased out.
The HAL is looking at a helicopter which will have more endurance than the Mi-17s and will be used for a wide variety of operations, including transport, VVIP travel, search and rescue besides others, the sources said.
The HAL also plans to manufacture a medium weight combat helicopter in the future, which will rival the American Apache currently in service with the IAF.
It will also offer a naval variant to the Indian Navy, which is also in need of medium weight choppers.