The first batch of Mi-17V-5 helicopters have been delivered to India under a contract signed by state arms exporter Rosoboronexport in December 2008 for 80 new helicopters.
The helicopters are manufactured by Kazan Helicopters, a subsidiary of the Russian Helicopters holding company as part of the US$1.35 billion contract. Deliveries will be completed by 2014.
The Indian Air Force currently operates over 200 Mi-8/17 type medium rotorcraft of Russian manufacture.
The Mi-17V-5 is the most up-to-date modification of the Mi-17. The helicopters being delivered are manufactured to the customer’s specification and are unique in their configuration. Each helicopter is equipped with a KNEI-8 avionics suite featuring four large multi-functional displays that are easy to read and help reduce pilot fatigue. This avionics suite also helps cut down pre-flight inspection time, displaying all systems data and alerting crew when necessary.
The Klimov VK2500-powered aircraft have strengthened gearboxes to enable high-altitude operations, addressing a key requirement that emerged following performance inadequacies with India’s current Mi-17s.
The Indian military is being renewed and expanded and the service has several major helicopter procurement projects in the pipeline. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has developed the 12 000 lb (5.5 ton) Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), 54 of which will go to the Air Force and 105 to the Army under a US$3.56 billion order.
About half of all Dhruvs will be Weapon System Integrated (WSI) with Mistral 2 air-to-air missiles, Helina anti-tank missiles and a 20 mm cannon slaved to the gunner’s helmet-mounted site. Dhruvs will replace the Air Force’s approximately 65 HAL Chetak light utility helicopters. Deliveries are expected to be completed by 2013-2014.
Additionally, the Indian armed forces in 2007 launched a search for 197 light reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters (64 for the Air Force and 133 for the Army). The winner of the US$750 million competition should be announced soon. The Eurocopter AS 550 Fennec and Kamov Ka-226 are being considered after passing trials.
In the attack role the Indian Air Force has 20 Mi-25/35s in service and hopes to replace them with 22 new attack Helicopters. In May 2008 the Indian Ministry of Defence issued a request for proposals for twin-engined attack helicopters but the tender was cancelled in March 2009, only to be re-opened two months later. The AH-64D Apache and Mi-28 Night Hunter were the leading contenders until the Mi-28N was dropped from the competition, leaving the AH-64 as the leading contender.
HAL is also developing the ambitious Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), which first flew in March 2010 after years of delays. It has stealth features, a glass cockpit and armour protection. The LCH carries the same armament as the WSI Dhruv. The IAF has ordered 65 LCHs for about US$1.4 billion, while the Army is buying 114. HAL expects certification next year and production to begin in 2013.
The Air Force’s heavy lift helicopter fleet consists of four Mi-26 ‘Halos’, which may be replaced by 12-15 new heavy lift helicopters. Boeing’s CH-47F Chinook and Mil’s Mi-26T2 are competing for a contract.