Russia to showcase two copters to Modi

Russian Helicopters plant in Ulan Ude gears up to manufacture Ka-226Ts for India

September 01, 2019 12:00 am | Updated 01:36 am IST - ULAN UDE (RUSSIA)

A Ka-226T at the MAKS air show in Russia.

A Ka-226T at the MAKS air show in Russia.

Russia will showcase two of its helicopters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) at Vladivostok in Russia where he will also hold the annual bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“A prototype of the Kamov Ka-226T will be showcased to the Indian Prime Minister. It was built by the Kamov Design Bureau in Moscow. One Mi-171A2 passenger helicopter built here for an Indian private helicopter company will also be showcased,” Sergei Solomin, First Deputy Managing Director of the Russian Helicopters (RH) manufacturing plant at Ulan Ude, told a small group of visiting international journalists. The K2-226Ts for India would be manufactured here.

In anticipation of the final contract with India, the plant had started setting up a manufacturing line and the first Ka-226T was expected to be ready by end 2020. For Mi series of helicopters it typically took nine months from the contract to the first helicopter and then four months, Mr. Solomin said.

“We will deliver 60 helicopters directly from here and supply kits for 140 more, which will be assembled in India,” he stated.

It’s pink

There is colour coding for the parts of various helicopters manufactured here and for the Ka-226T, it is pink that stood out distinctly on one side of a huge hall where work is under way as one walked around.

For the manufacture, aluminium with special additives would be used, Mr. Solomin said. “Its a special alloy.”

Spread over 275 hectares, including the tarmac and a 3000m runway, the Ulan Ude plant was set up in 1939. It currently produces Mi-8, Mi-171E and Mi-171A2 helicopters. It manufactured 76 helicopters last year and a major expansion is on.

Leonid Belykh, director general of the plant, said the overall investment in the plant in the last five years was over 8bn roubles and in the next five years they planned to invest over 10bn roubles. “We plan to increase the head count like engineers and designers. But it wont be much as we do a lot of automation,” he stated.

Both the officials remained non-committal on the time frame for the manufacture for India as the deal is yet to be signed. “It will be determined by the contract itself,” Mr. Belykh said, adding that as part of setting up a manufacturing line, they were working on tooling, assembly of spare parts and components.

The Mi-171A2 was built for Global Vectra Helicorp Limited and was awaiting certification from Indian authorities before it could be delivered, but had been delayed. “We expect the certification by September,” Mr. Belykh said.

While the Ka-226T is an India-specific variant, the Ka-226 is flown by the Russian border security and coast guard that come under the Federal Security Service (FSB) and are manufactured in Kumertau.

Asked as to why Ulan Ude was chosen to manufacture the Ka-226T, Mr. Solomin said it was to meet the specific Indian requirements – design and manufacturing processes should be digitised. The entire manufacturing would be through 3D modelling and there would be no paper drawings, he explained.

While most of the helicopters will be built within the Ulan Ude plant by RH and subsidiary companies, some parts will be manufactured at RH facilities elsewhere. For instance, the blades, rotor hub and few other components will come from Kumertau plant, while the gear box will be built at the plant in Perm. The helicopter will be powered by French Safran engines.

“Everything is ready”

Speaking about the deal at the MAKS air show, Viktor N Kladov, Director of International cooperation, Rostec state corporation, said “everything is ready” and the two leaders would give it a push towards conclusion. “Major push will be made. Both technical and commercial talks are already finished. Quite obviously, this will be discussed at Vladivostok,” he added.

In 2015, India and Russia concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for at least 200 Ka-226T helicopters, estimated to cost over $1 billion. The Ka-226T is meant to replace the ageing and obsolete Cheetah and Chetak fleets of the Indian Army and Air Force. It has a service ceiling of 6500m making it fit to operate in the high altitude Siachen glacier.

The helicopters will be manufactured in India by a joint venture between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and RH. To meet the localisation requirements as part of the deal, RH signed Memoranda of Understanding with five Indian companies at Aero India in February last, covering assemblies such as fuselage, blades, radio station and landing gear. More such agreements would be done in future, officials added.

(The writer is at MAKS 2019 air show on the invitation of the Russian government )

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