India to sell helicopters to U.S. customs

Wednesday, 26 November 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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BANGALORE: India's state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has clinched a multi-million dollar deal to sell 10 advanced light helicopters (ALHs) to the U.S. customs through its Israeli marketing partner.

Negotiations are in an advanced stage to finalise the deal for supplying the civil variant of the helicopter called Dhruv, HAL chairman and managing director N.R. Mohanty told IANS here Wednesday.

"Our strategic partner, the Israeli Avionics Industries (IAI), is in talks with the U.S. customs authorities to work out the details. HAL will be able to supply the 10 copters in a year's time once the order is placed," he declared.

Though Mohanty was unwilling to disclose the value of the order, aviation sources claimed it could be over 3 billion.

Said to be the first such export order for the flagship product of India's aeronautical public sector behemoth, the proposed deal will pitchfork HAL into the multi-billion dollar global copter market.

Ever since the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) certified the civil variant of Dhruv last month, HAL has embarked on an aggressive strategy with its Israeli partner to hard sell the ALHs in the global market.

"The U.S. customs will be placing the order once the modalities are worked out, including a mandatory clearance by the U.S. federal aviation authorities, which will assess ALH's performance and certify its parameters," Mohanty stated.

HAL is also in discussions with other countries for securing export orders for the military variant and with international organisations for the civilian variant of ALH.

"We will disclose the progress on the proposed deals at the appropriate time, once they are clinched," Mohanty affirmed.

According to sources, the deal with the customs was agreed upon during Mohanty's recent visit to the U.S.

HAL director for corporate planning and marketing Durga Charan Das, who is currently on a visit to Israel as part of the 20-member defence delegation, is set to be finalising the deal in consultation with the IAI.

The 31.20-billion HAL has a strategic alliance with IAI for marketing the ALH and advanced avionics, maintenance of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and in making the cargo conversion kit for Boeing 737 aircraft.

HAL's efforts to sell the civil variant Dhruv in the domestic market has not yet yielded results except for a lone order from a Mumbai firm dealing in oil exploration.

On the contrary, the military variant is in great demand. Till date, HAL has delivered about 20 ALHs to the three defence services and the Indian Coast Guard.

"We have an additional order for supplying about 50 Dhruv copters from the services and the coast guard. More from the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force," Mohanty claimed, adding the requirement for the defence forces could be in the range of 300 ALHs in the coming years.

Powered by two Turbomeca TM333-2M2 engines from France, the state-of-the-art ALH has been designed and developed with consulting support from European Deutschland (formerly MBB) of Germany.

The military and civil variants of the ALH were showcased at the recent Paris air show.

Source: IANS
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