Our association with India has always been a partnership approach rather than a client-buyer relationship
Vice president, India and South Asia, Airbus Helicopters, Rainer Farid
Vice president, India and South Asia, Airbus Helicopters, Rainer Farid Year 2013 has come to an end and 197 Reconnaissance & Surveillance helicopter programme is still in the cold storage. How disappointed are you about this?
The new Reconnaissance & Surveillance helicopters are supposed to replace the ageing Cheetah/Chetak fleet. The equivalent Alouette III helicopter production at Airbus Helicopters has been stopped more than 30 years ago. The Cheetah and Chetak helicopters have certainly served the nation well for decades now and Airbus Helicopters has continuously supported the Indian Cheetah/Chetak fleet much beyond our initial license agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The Cheetah/ Chetak helicopters are obsolete and have been in service for 40 years and require immediate replacement. Keeping this fleet operational is becoming well-nigh impossible due to its vintage and non-availability of critical spares; most vendors have shut down the production of Cheetah/Chetak spares making it impossible to continue to support this fleet for much longer. The stagnation of this programme is causing great consternation to Airbus Helicopters.

Clearly, we have shown our perseverance in this particular programme that has gone on for over nine years now. We are persisting because we truly believe that our proposed product, the AS550 C3 Fennec, is exactly what the Indian Army and air force need. More importantly, the Fennec can be delivered very quickly, within the timeframe stipulated which is 12 months after contract signature. That is because Airbus Helicopters is producing around 300 helicopters of this type every year.

What is the current status of programmes that Eurocopter is bidding with the Indian defence forces?
We have proposed the AS565 MBe Panther to meet the Indian Navy’s requirement for 56 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH); the programme is at Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) stage and Field Evaluation Trials in India are expected in 2014. The same has also been proposed for the Indian Coast Guard’s requirement of 16 ship-based light/medium helicopters, for which we are expecting a new Request for Proposal (RFP) to be issued this year.

The Indian Navy has a huge requirement for 123 Naval Multi-Role Helicopters (NMRH) for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Unit Warfare (ASuW), Special Operation and Amphibious Assault. Airbus Helicopters has offered the EC725. This programme is under the ‘Buy & Make’ category requiring an important Transfer of Technology (ToT) package leading to the indigenous manufacturing of the NMRH by Indian defence industry. Airbus Helicopters has been successful in developing and implementing co-operation packages worldwide. Similarly, licensed production, technology transfer and sourcing have been key elements of Airbus Helicopters’ contribution in India for over 50 years and will remain the core of our strategy.

The EC725 has been also shortlisted for the requirement of 14 shore-based helicopters for the Coast Guards. Flight evaluation trials, which are at the next stage, are expected to take place during 2014.

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