HAL seeks Government funding for Indian Multi-Role Helicopter

IMRH pitched as one-stop replacement for Mi-17, Kamov series and Sea King choppers

February 27, 2020 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By Ministry of Defence
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurating the new production hangar for the Light Combat Helicopter at HAL's Bengaluru Complex on February 27

India's aircraft manufacturing monopoly Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has submitted a Preliminary Project Report (PPR) for sanction of Government funds for the development of the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH), which is being pitched as a one-stop replacement for Mi-17, Kamov and Sea King fleets of the Indian Air Force and Navy. The Defence PSU has sought a 10-year timeline for the development of the multi-role helicopter.

Close on the heels of its challenge to the Government's Strategic Partner Concept aimed at developing an alternate private sector aviation complex through multi-billion dollar acquisitions beginning with the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) programme, this is being seen as an aggressive move by HAL to protect its turf from foreign and Indian private sector competition

The IMRH concept was aggressively pitched to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh when he visited the HAL complex in Bengaluru to inaugurate a new production hangar for the in-house Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) on February 27.

Close on the heels of its challenge to the Government's Strategic Partner Concept aimed at developing an alternate private sector aviation complex through multi-billion dollar acquisitions beginning with the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) programme, this is being seen as an aggressive move by HAL to protect its turf from foreign and Indian private sector competition. The NUH programme has been delayed to review an appeal by HAL against its non-consideration for the competition.

"HAL apprised Defence Minister on the progress of new design and development program of indigenous IMRH. The full scale mock-up was showcased to the Minister. The IMRH (for IAF, Navy and Army) is proposed as a replacement to the existing medium lift helicopters such as Mi17's, Kamovs and Seakings which will phase out in the next eight to ten years and HAL is keen to complete the development of IMRH during this time.

On his part, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh did not make any commitment to HAL on the IMRH. Instead, he asked HAL to gear up to emerging market challenges, tap the international market and take a lead in the civil aircraft segment too

"Induction of indigenous IMRH will result in considerable savings of foreign exchange. Preliminary Project Report (PPR) for Development has been submitted to MoD for sanction of funds by CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security)," HAL declared in a statement.

On his part, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh did not make any commitment to HAL on the IMRH. Instead, he asked HAL to gear up to emerging market challenges, tap the international market and take a lead in the civil aircraft segment too.

"While there is every reason to be happy about its performance especially in the last five years, the Company should prepare itself to take up the challenges in the emerging market. HAL should see the competition as an opportunity, the Ministry of Defence suggested in a statement released after the Minister's visit on February 27, while "noting that the HAL is now facing stiff competition from private defence industries".

"The new production hangar will augment the LCH production capacity to reach a peak production of 30 helicopters per year," CEO Helicopter Complex GVS Bhaskar was quoted saying

HAL CMD R Madhavan also strongly pitched the LCH for the attack helicopter requirement, which aggregates to 160. "LCH is completely ready for operational induction and Helicopter Complex is fully geared up for the production of LCH," HAL stated quoting Madhavan.

"The new production hangar will augment the LCH production capacity to reach a peak production of 30 helicopters per year," CEO Helicopter Complex GVS Bhaskar was quoted saying.

The techno-commercial proposal for 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) helicopters was submitted by HAL in March 2018 and an order is awaited. Ten of these attack helicopters are meant for the IAF and five for the Army.

The LCH is a 5.5-tonne class combat helicopter designed and developed by HAL. Powered by two Shakti engines assembled with the assistance of the French engine maker Safran, the LCH is the first attack helicopter to land in Forward Bases at Siachen at heights up to 4,700 metres above sea level with a 500 kg payload.

The Defence Minister expressed appreciation for HAL notching up a turnover of 19,705 crore in 2018-19 and declaring a dividend of 198 per cent.