Indian Navy requires 100 units of twin-engine medium-sized utility helicopters to serve the Indian waters.
The programme is likely to follow the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ category.
“We have been discussing with Mahindra for a long time—everything from business agreement to a business plan and marketing the project,” said Pierre de Bausset, president and managing director of Airbus India. He pointed that even as a lot will depend on the JV winning the contract from the Indian Navy, the company has started the preparatory work, which includes “transferring the know-how”.
Ashish Ashraf, vice-president industry development, strategic partnerships and offsets, Airbus group India, said the company has been able to transfer some of the structural packages to Mahindra, which has got them to start making parts small assemblies and components for the helicopter.
“Not only does it prepare Mahindra for the big activity, it also helps develop a small chain of small and medium scale enterprises that will feed into the AS565 MBe Panther line,” said Ashraf adding that the company has narrowed down seven to eight states for a manufacturing site, which it is evaluating for feasibility. The JV, said Bausset, will go beyond the Panther and make range of helicopters that can address varied needs of the armed forces. “The whole idea is long term,” he said.
In July 2016, Airbus Helicopters awarded a contract to Mahindra Aero structures Ltd to make airframe parts for the Panther military chopper. These parts are made at Mahindra’s facility near Bengaluru shipped directly to the Airbus helicopter production line in Marignane, France, where they are integrated with the rest of the airframe assembly.
Under its planned strategic partnership model, India will select private Indian firms to exclusively manufacture military equipment for a specified period.
India’s defence helicopter market historically has been dominated by Russian and French origin platforms, which have been produced under a licensing agreement by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The need to modernize the ageing fleet of helicopters and fighter jets under the make in India programme with the proposed strategic partnership model, has been wooing global firms to India as an investment destination.