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The Indian Army and Indian Air Force, which had initially sought to procure Russian Kamov Ka-226T ‘Hoodlum’ light utility helicopters, are now exploring other options due to uncertainties surrounding the over $1.2 billion tender initiated in 2014 for 200 of these helicopters. It appears that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering scrapping the deal, as negotiations between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Kamov have encountered numerous complexities, including issues related to technology transfer, indigenous content, and overall costs.

The Ka-226T ‘Hoodlum’ light helicopter, powered by two advanced Arrius 2G1 engines developed by Turbomeca (a Safran Group company), offers a level of performance that surpasses HAL’s 3-ton Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), which operates with a single HAL/Turbomeca Shakti-1U turboshaft engine. The Ka-226T’s advanced features, including FADEC-equipped engines, make it suitable for high-altitude operations, an essential capability in the rugged terrain of the Indian subcontinent.

One of the distinctive features of the Ka-226T is its coaxial rotor system, designed with advanced composite materials. This design provides the helicopter with exceptional manoeuvrability while eliminating the need for a tail rotor. These qualities make it a favourable choice for various missions, including utility transport, reconnaissance, and more.

Amidst the uncertainties surrounding the deal, sources suggest that the MoD has advised the Indian Army and Indian Air Force to consider acquiring additional LUH helicopters rather than pursuing the planned split order for 200 helicopters, which would have included both LUH and Ka-226T. Another proposal under consideration is to secure the intellectual property (IP) rights and blueprints for the helicopter’s design, procure the engines directly from France, and develop a new variant of the helicopter in collaboration with the Indian private sector. However, this approach would require significant investment in localizing the helicopter’s production, and it remains uncertain whether Kamov would be willing to relinquish its IP for the helicopter.

The future of the Kamov Ka-226T ‘Hoodlum’ light utility helicopter deal appears uncertain, as the Indian Armed Forces explore alternatives to fulfil their requirements for light utility helicopters. The final decision regarding this procurement is eagerly awaited as both the Army and the Air Force seek to modernize their aviation capabilities.

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