Russia to push for final orders in $1 bn Kamov Copters deal at Modi-Putin meet next week

Russia will press India for early placement of final orders for 200 Kamov KA-226T light utility helicopters under a $1 billion joint manufacturing deal, delayed by almost a year, when president Vladimir Putin meets prime minister Narendra Modi for bilateral talks at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok next week.

Modi is the chief guest at Putin’s annual gig of world leaders and captains of industry to promote investments in the natural resource-rich Far Eastern region of Russia.

“We are hopeful that this meeting between president Putin and prime minister Modi will bring a new development in our KA-226T project. A major push will be made definitely. All technical and commercial talks are already finished. All RFPs (request for proposals) done; twice already. But then until now the contract is not signed. Quite obviously this question will be discussed in Vladivostok,” Victor N Kladov, director for international co-operation and regional policy at Rostec told TOI at the MAKS 2019 air show here.

Rostec is the state-owned holding conglomerate which mentors Russian defence and hi-tech companies, including Russian Helicopters, the manufacturers of KA-226T choppers, which US-led Western military alliance calls ‘Hoodlum’. The Ka-226T helicopters are to replace the four-decades-old and accident-prone Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in service with the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.

The two countries signed the deal during Modi’s 2015 Russia visit. Under the agreement, Russian Helicopters is to supply 60 choppers in a fly-away condition and assemble the rest in India jointly with state-run aeronautical firm HAL under Modi’s ‘Make in India’ programme to promote domestic manufacturing.

Kladov said Russian Helicopters has not been “sitting idle or sleeping” because final orders have been delayed by “almost a year”. “In February Russian Helicopter signed five separate contracts with vendors which are private Indian companies who will be supplying units and parts for the KA-226T. We are moving towards Make in India programme. Many components and parts will be produced domestically in India. HAL will be the main partner. Down the line, we will invite more and more Indian partners.” The Indian vendors will supply assemblies such as fuselage, blades, and landing gear.

Kladov did not see problems in the payment mechanism due to US sanctions as the reason for the delay in placement of final orders and said they were awaiting Indian defence ministry clearance. “It is a non-issue (for all Russian defence deals). There were initial difficulties due to banking restrictions (because of sanctions). But then we talked on a government-to-government level on using difference currency. In India’s case we use the rupee."

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