Army should focus on attack choppers’ privatisation
With the Apaches being sanctioned for the Indian Army, other attack helicopter programmes for the force are also on track. These are ventures of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), a defence PSU.
However, the army should also focus on privatisation of such projects to ensure there are broader choices of such helicopters, reduction in import dependence of major components, and a long-term manufacturing capability is set up in India.
FOCUS ON INDIGENISATION ::
In India, HAL is the entity which produces all kinds of helicopters. HAL will also have to be taken on board for the Apache’s integration, maintenance and repairs. But HAL has limited production capability. In relation, the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and its two weaponised variants, the Rudra and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) have limited indigenous content.
The Rudra and the LCH are the army’s other attack helicopter programmes, which like the Apaches will be deployed opposite Pakistan and China. A 2010 CAG report had stated that 90% of the material used in the ALH is procured from foreign suppliers. Major components such as the engines for these helicopters are imported from different countries, leading to integration and maintenance issues. But these are processes that take place to move towards indigenisation.
Experts believe that projects for the army’s acquisition of such air assets should also be given to Indian private entities. This will enhance India’s manufacturing capabilities and ensure a wider choice of helicopters, which are made as per the army’s requirements. All this can be done through the Strategic Partnership model, wherein Indian private entities tie up with foreign manufacturers to make major military platforms.
The Indian Navy is working towards this development by having issued Requests for Information for the procurement of Naval Multi Role Helicopters and Naval Utility Helicopters. This could be the time when the army focused on further indigenisation of attack helicopters.
RUDRAS AND LCH ::
The army has a few squadrons of Rudras and plans to have a total of six squadrons, numbering up to 60 helicopters. While the ammunition for these multi-utility helicopters is being procured, the final trials of their crucial Helina missiles are on. Meanwhile, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley launched the LCH’s production in Bangalore on Saturday. But sources said, “Its prototypes have undergone trials, and its probable date of completion is by this year’s end.
Then it will be ready for production,” said sources. Last year, the Centre gave in-principle approval for 15 LCHs for the IAF and army. They will be evaluated and thereafter the army will place a order of 11.5 squadrons, each consisting of 10 to 12 LCHs.