Tata Advanced Systems tying up with Bell Helicopter to compete for $2-billion naval chopper contract
Looking to consolidate its position as a leader in the Indian defence aviation industry, Tata Advanced Systems is tying up with Bell Helicopter of the US to compete against the Mahindra-Airbus combination for a $2-billion naval chopper manufacturing contract.
The mega contract for 100 utility helicopters to be operated from warships will be awarded as a ‘Make in India’ project. Tata will form a joint venture with Bell to bid for the contract under existing foreign direct investment norms, three people with direct knowledge about the developments told ET.
Under the route being followed to get the choppers, Indian companies will lead the procurement bids with a foreign company as a technology partner. TASL will be the lead company in partnership with Bell Helicopter, based in Fort Worth, Texas.
Competition for the new choppers is expected to play out between the Bell 429 and the Airbus AS565, one of which will be selected on technical and commercial grounds.
“The TASL tie-up with Bell Helicopter is likely to be announced formally soon. It will make the competition more or less a direct fight between Mahindra and Tata,” people involved in the developments told ET. The Indian Navy is looking for a modern chopper to replace its ageing Chetak helicopters.
While the initial requirement is for 100 helicopters, the number may go up as the navy inducts newer platforms and increases the size of its fleet.
TASL is the leading military aviation player in India and has tied up for or is producing major systems for global giants including Sikorsky, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Earlier this month, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar inaugurated a Boeing-Tata venture for producing the fuselage of AH 64 Apache attack helicopters in India. The joint venture was described by Parrikar as the largest foreign investment project in India in the defence sector.
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