Major Blow To Airbus, India Scraps $1.5-bil Light Copter Buy

It’s the unthinkable for Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopter), but it had been on the horizon for at least 18 months now. India’s agonisingly long-drawn out procurement programme for 197 light multirole helicopters (officially ‘Reconnaissance & Surveillance Helicopter’ or RSH) was scrapped today by the MoD. The decision brings to a close nearly four years of uncertainty since field trials on the two competing helicopters (the AS 550 C3 Fennec and Kamov Ka-226T Sergei) were completed in December 2011.
Nervous about proceeding with a decision ever since it emerged last year during the AgustaWestland investigations that an Indian Army Brigadier may have separately offered to compromise the light helicopter competition in its first avatar (the effort was scrapped in 2007), the Army and MoD have finally pulled the shutters down on the deal. The Indian government first sent out an RfP in 2003, and its second one (the current competition) in 2008. That’s 11 years down the drain, and a second major blow the Airbus Helicopter that had been shattered by the first abort in 2007.
The Indian government has decided to re-open the light copter shortly as ‘Buy & Make’ programme, in which the Indian private sector has a magnificent opportunity to procure technology from abroad through a joint venture, and manufacture the helicopters in India. Airbus, Kamov and other firms would presumably be among the potential technology partners in such an effort. Either way, the decision is in keeping with a resolute new impulse pervading procurement: no more simply buying stuff; if you want to sell to India, you had better make a large part of your kit locally.
But the implications of the scrap are major: it places many years of additional pressure on India’s current fleet of Cheetah and Chetak utility choppers operated by the Army and IAF especially in high-altitude zones. The scrapping also does little for India’s existing reputation as an unpredictable, whimsical and inefficient customer of military hardware.

The folks at Kamov and Airbus both confirmed tonight that they hadn’t heard from the MoD, and had only read about the decision in the press.

14 thoughts on “Major Blow To Airbus, India Scraps $1.5-bil Light Copter Buy”

  1. GOI decision to produce the Helicopters in India is commendable as it will help long term capability ! Joint production will bring technology also !No need to worry about credibility as buyer always commands respect !

  2. who cares what suppliers think?they will come running if GOI ever wants anything off the shelf.Meanwhile,its important of Indian military equipment manufacturers to learn the ropes, while this govt is in power, so they can be in the running for any major contracts in the future.

  3. It is good to have India make Heli , Modi Govt. is doing the right thing to boost domestic manufacturing.Need to encourage Kalyani and Tata for their artillery the stop gap measure need to buy few heli for high attitude operation.

  4. Rajeev Chaturvedi

    Wonderful decision !!!!!

    On one hand, he broke the HAL monopoly on producing helicopters in India, by inviting the Indian private sector. He has also ensured quality by making it "Buy and make" category and not simply "make" category.

    On other hand, he has clarified that "off the shelf" buying days are gone for international OEMs. You want business, better produce it with Indian manufacturers.

    This is the exact policy South Koreans, Turkish, Japanese, even Chinese and many others have followed and built up their domestic aviation industry through international industrial partnership.

    Alas!! Previous governments in India have only thought about filling up their coffers…

  5. It's a big boost to private industry to show case the talent. Many jobs will be created for young engineers. All kudos to Modiji who has the vision in making India self reliant.

  6. when did tata,mahindra,reliance produced choppers last time.

    these companies can't even produce good cars compared to foreign counterparts.

    y don't they encourage single engine dhruv developement?

    modi all gone to benefit those who don't have an iota of aviation,why hal is kicked out.

  7. With Avro replacement and LUH , an Indian private sector has chance of volumes. Add to it MRO of navy MRH, situation looks better

  8. All in for indigenous development ..BUT how long will this take ????? In the mean time whats the Army to do??? still fly the outdated under-powered chopper???

    The biggest losers unfortunately is the Army 🙁

  9. A very good decision. I think we Indians are the only fools trying to show credibility at wring places. I wonder when will we use our brain instead of going by slave mentality. A slave usually shows credibility to its master, we still can't get over it?


    Well it is good to have indigenous capability , but there are serious questions about our higher defence management which need to be addressed. This proposal of buy (global)for 197 was cleared in a DAC in Mar 2008, while 187 were to be developed by HAL through the indegenous route.Now after more than six years , when the process is reaching culmination you cancel it . Mr RM , just want to remind you that while you were leader of the opposition when the previous UPA govt was in power, and Vodafone was facing the retrospective tax under GAAR , you were the one who called it a Banana Republic decision . What about the pilot who has to fly the aging Cheetah , on the icy heights of siachin . Do we have to shed tears , only when there is a fatal casualty. Now he will have to wait for another five years , before he can dream of flying a modern helicopter. The whole episode brings into light the complete disconnect between the ministry and the service headquaters. Yes the thought process of "make in India " is a noble one , but not at the cost of defence preparedness. The aging fleet of Cheetah/Chetak is at the very fag end of its service life , and one only hopes that this decision does not lead to loss of precious young lives.

  11. Dear All ,

    There are no pro and cons . What I do not understand is that if the Cheetas and chetaks are at the end of their lives what prevents the Air Chief to go to the PM and name the chopper he wants for an immediate intermediate solution. Are there no choppers available off the shelf in Europe or US or Russia to fill in an immediate gap? Will any PM say no to AM if he is strong and serious enough and makes a threatening pitch that he is in need of at least 40 such choppers to service the Siachin and related areas or else ? Even MMS would have never said no. I am convinced of the lack of integrity in our senior brass who give a damn for the young pilot,sailor or jawans . May be that is what the selection process of these people is all about- ji hazoori and plum posts after retirement.
    This is not a troll or personal attack. As an Indian I am feeling very sick today of this 'Ache din ' govt.

  12. Cheetah crashes near Bareliely , resulting in loss of 3 precious young lives . Alas , as they say sometime in life , our worst fears of a possible nightmare come true sooner than expected .
    This has happened within one month of the decision to cancel the RSH deal . One hopes the fresh case initiated under Buy and Make (Indian), moves fast enough , so that we do not have any more loss of young precious lifes .

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top