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India’s long-held dream of replacing its ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters with modern Russian Ka-226Ts seems to be grounded over complex engine issues. Though chosen by both the Indian Army and Air Force, two critical roadblocks threaten the program’s future:

Despite ambitious goals, India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is struggling to achieve the desired level of local manufacturing for the Ka-226T. The current French engine hinders reaching the stipulated 75% localization target, falling short at 62.4%.

The French Turbomeca/Safran Arrius 2G1 engines powering the Ka-226T are caught in the crossfire of US sanctions under CAATSA. France, unwilling to supply engines for Russian platforms, refuses to provide further technology transfer (ToT) for the program.

In an attempt to address the impasse, Russia has advised India to engage with France directly regarding the ToT levels of the engine. However, discussions with France have proven challenging, as the French authorities are hesitant to sell engines that would be installed in Russian helicopters. The localization of the Ka-226T is contingent on securing ToT for the French engine, adding a layer of complexity to the negotiation process.

Russia’s United Engine Corporation (UEC)-Klimov joint venture has proposed the development of a replacement engine for the Ka-226T to circumvent the French engine-related challenges. However, this solution comes with its own set of hurdles, as the new engine is projected to take another 3-5 years before it is ready for production. This extended timeline poses a significant delay to the Ka-226T program.

HAL, lacking a twin-rotor coaxial design engine in its portfolio, faces a dilemma. The company is unable to progress with the Ka-226T program unless France agrees to transfer the Turbomeca/Safran Arrius 2G1 turboshaft engines along with ToT. Without a resolution on this front, the Ka-226T program remains stalled, impacting the timelines for the replacement of India’s vintage Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.

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