BENGALURU: The 200 helicopter deal part of a 2015 Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between India and Russia, is likely to take more than a year to even reach the contract stage, with commercial talks yet to begin. As part of the IGA, India is planning to buy 135 of these choppers for the Army, and another 65 for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
On January 7, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had estimated the tentative cost of the project—which she said was among projects in ‘pipeline’ for a struggling Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)—at Rs 20,000 crore.
“The AoN (Acceptance of Necessity) cost not mentioned in DAC (defence acquisition council) minutes. Tentative cost Rs 20,000 crore as per the annual acquisition plan,” Sitharaman had said, adding that the RFP (request for proposal) was issued to Ind0-Russian Helicopters Limited (IRHL), an HAL joint venture.
The TOI immediately reached out to Russian Helicopters, the main partner with HAL in IRHL and the makers of the Ka-226T helicopters, by email, but the firm insisted on a personal meeting with its Director General Andrey Boginskiy.
When asked about this in an exclusive interview to TOI on February 21, Boginskiy replied: “We don’t know what estimation would be, because as I mentioned it is necessary to define it together with Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD), and it will also depend on a lot of things concerning co-operation between Russian Helicopters, Rosoboronexport and HAL.”
Rosoboronexport is Russia’s sole agency for exporting the entire range of military technologies. On whether Russian Helicopter has any cost estimates, Boginskiy said the firm hadn’t discussed the topic yet and hoped that they along with HAL, IRHL and MoD begin commercial negotiations really soon.
5 Meetings In 5 Months
“Between September 2018 and mid-February 2019, we have had five meetings involving MoD, HAL, Rosoboronexport, Russian Helicopters and IRHL. Just two weeks ago, we finalised on the technical specifications and hope that in the nearest future we will begin commercial negotiations,” Boginskiy said.
He said that the commercial negotiations will deal with a lot of important issues to discuss, and price was not the first on the list.
“We are to negotiate on terms and conditions as to how assemblies would work, what kind of investments are required, how shall we organize our cooperation with local companies for localisation within the framework of Make-in-India programme and so on. It will take us several months to define all these points. By our estimate, the whole programme of supplies and localisation will take from 8 to 10 years to get executed,” Boginskiy said.
HAL will be an assembly partner, but the PSU has informed Russian Helicopters that they will be ready to localise some components as well.
“Of the 200, 60 helicopters are to be produced in Russia and 140 units have to be assembled in India, with different level of localisation of main components. I would like to underline, that we will also transfer the technology, as the level of localization for some components will be more than 50%,” Boginskiy said.
Confirming that the contract would go to IRHL and not HAL or Russian Helicopters individually, he said that the firm did not, however, know into whose account the money would go to.
“We don’t know exactly, as there is no contract yet. However, our understanding together with HAL is that the contract will be between Indian company, which is our JV, and the Ministry of Defence,” he said.