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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is setting ambitious goals for the upcoming Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) program, according to reports. The IAF has reportedly conveyed to state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) a high production rate target of 35 units per year right from the program’s inception.

This urgency stems from the IAF’s need to replace its aging fleet of Russian-origin Mi-17 helicopters. These helicopters, inducted starting in 1971, are becoming increasingly obsolete. Additionally, dwindling spare part support from Russia further complicates their maintenance. The last major purchase of Mi-17 helicopters, the Mi-17V-5 variant, occurred in 2012 with a contract for 71 units. The IAF also retired its final batch of Mi-8 helicopters, precursors to the Mi-17 family, in 2018.

The IAF plans to phase out its older Mi-17 variants, specifically the Mi-17-I, from 2030 onwards. This planned retirement necessitates a swift replacement strategy. The IMRH program, with its envisioned high production rate, aims to bridge this operational gap.

The IMRH program is envisioned as the ideal replacement for the retiring Mi-17 fleet. The IAF’s high production rate demand reflects its eagerness to induct a significant number of IMRH helicopters as soon as possible. With a projected initial operational capability (IOC) around 2028, the IAF is likely aiming for a seamless transition from the Mi-17s to the new IMRH platform.

Achieving a production rate of 35 units per year will be a significant challenge for HAL. The success of the program hinges on HAL’s ability to ramp up production capacity, secure a robust supply chain, and ensure adherence to stringent quality and safety standards.