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Copter services: HAL scouts for foreign partners

NEW DELHI (PTI): Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd will soon develop a 10-tonne class helicopter for the armed forces and is searching for foreign partners either from Russia or a France-based company.

The defence public sector undertaking plans to carry out the medium-lift helicopter programme in partnership with a foreign manufacturer. “We plan to develop and build 10-tonne class helicopters in partnership with either the Eurocopter or the Russians. We are yet to finalise the partner for the programme, which would be done in the next few months,” HAL Chairman, Mr Ashok Baweja, told PTI on Monday.

“Eurocopter and a Russian company have been short listed by HAL in its search for a partner in the helicopter development programme. “We would zero in on our partner in the next few months. This would be a joint venture between the selected company and H AL,” Mr Baweja said. HAL plans to produce around 350 helicopters in the 10-tonne class, keeping in view the market for medium-lift helicopters in the armed forces.

The 10-tonne helicopter would be offered to the navy to meet its requirement for heavy-lift choppers. The navy had earlier refused to accept the HAL's flagship Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) 'Dhruv', as it did not meet its requirement. Another chopper project HAL is working on is for manufacture of Light Utility Helicopters (LUH).

HAL has been asked to develop a 3-tonne light helicopter for the army and the IAF for replacing their fleet of 'Cheetah' and 'Chetak'.

"We are in the preliminary stages in the project and are working on the design of the LUH. This would be a 3-tonne helicopter with a single engine," Baweja said.

The LUH project would be completed in next five to six years and would help upgrade the helicopter fleet of the armed forces.

The army and the IAF want to replace around 300 'Cheetah' and 'Chetak' helicopters, which form the bulk of their rotary wing fleet. HAL would be producing 187 helicopters for the two forces, Baweja said.

The two forces had expressed a joint demand of 384 helicopters earlier, of which 197 would be procured directly from foreign vendors and the rest 187 developed and produced by HAL.

"The numbers can be increased in future as the navy is also looking to replace its fleet of the 'Cheetah' and 'Chetak' helicopters," the HAL chairman said.

The DPSU has also plans to sell around 100 such helicopters in the civilian sector with the demand for light helicopters steadily increasing in the country.

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