Despite the slow progress of the Russian Helicopters Ka-226T India-Russia deal, it is set to be signed at last in the first quarter of this year

Andrey Boginsky, director general of Russian Helicopters, said that all details of the contract for delivery of 200 Kamov Ka-226T light utility helicopters to the Indian MoD were expected to be finally agreed between the parties by mid-December 2017 but this is still yet to be confirmed.

In May 2015, the 3.6t Ka-226T was selected as the winner in the protracted and hotly contested tender of the Indian MoD which outlined the replacement of its existing fleet of HAL Chetak and Cheetah aircraft.

The seller is Russia’s arms export agency, Rosobornexport, and the total price of the contract will exceed US$1 billion. One hundred and forty of these helicopters will be produced locally under the wide-ranging Make in India initiative by the Indian-Russian joint-venture company while the initial 60 will be built in Russia, at the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant (U-UAP) in eastern Siberia.

The main contractor for the Ka-226T production in India will be the joint venture company established between Russian Helicopters and Indian aerospace company HAL in May 2017. It was eventually agreed between the partners that Russian Helicopters will hold a 49.5% stake in the joint venture, while Indian company HAL will take the remaining 50.5%.

In addition to the helicopter production, the joint venture will also deal with the MRO of the delivered helicopters in addition to the provision of training services. Currently, both Kamov and U-UAP are busy with the preparation of the Ka-226T aircraft production process for India using the civil-certified Ka-226T design as a baseline.

It comes powered by two Safran Helicopter Engines Arrius 2G1, de-rated to 580shp in one engine inoperative mode to provide considerable enhanced performance in hot and high conditions, enabling operations at an elevation of up to 2,500m above sea level without affecting performance. The Ka-226T also features the UKBP KBO-226 flight/navigation suite with multi-functional colour displays and is provided with NVG compatible cockpit and exterior lighting.

The Ka-226T’s enhanced and militarised derivative, tailor-designed to meet the Indian MoD requirements is designated as the 226.54.

The helicopter uses an extensively redesigned baseline model and is set to be built by widely-using the new digital technologies. To make it possible, Kamov has developed an all-new 3D digital design model for the 226.54 by using the Dassault Systems CATIA V5 software for computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing and computer-aided engineering.

This digital model is being used at the U-UAP’s design department for the designing of the tooling to be used for helicopter assembly and also for the fabrications of parts on numerically-controlled milling machines. U-UAP will produce the forward section (including the cockpit), the middle section and the twin-boom/twin-fin tail section.

The rotor column and blades will be produced in Russia at the Kumertau-based KumAPE plant, which is currently dealing with the small-scale Ka-226T production for Russian government customers.

This novel approach would speed up the production preparation phase and also would allow a significant reduction of the man-hours needed for the production process of helicopter parts and the necessary tooling. 

According to Sergey Solomin, U-UAP’s chief engineer, the eventual goal for the Ka-226T manufacturing process is to reduce the labour cost share down to 20% of the helicopter’s production cost.

This figure, stated by Solomin, would be close to the production practices adopted in the US. He believes that the labour-reduction target could be met in three to five years from now, when the Ka-226T’s manufacturing process at U-UAP will be in full swing.

By that time, the production line will have a capacity of 30 to 35 helicopters a year. The final assembly line, which is currently in an early build-up phase, will be equipped with tooling and test equipment at six helicopter positions.

The Indian production of the Ka-226T will be divided into four phases. The first of these foresees simple assembly of Russian-made helicopters (transported to India in a partially disassembled state after assembly and testing at U-UAP) and completion of their ground and flight testing before handover to the Indian military.

The second phase will see the assembly of knocked-down component kits delivered from Russia. The third one will include a deeper assembly level by using Russian-made parts and the fourth phase will include production of helicopters by using Indian-fabricated parts from raw materials supplied from Russia.

According to the contract requirements, all 200 helicopters will be delivered to the Indian MoD within a period spanning over nine years counted from the contract signature date. Immediately after the contract signature, the joint venture company is to begin working to establish the maintenance capability in India, expected to be ready within five years, while the overhaul capability is slated to be attained within seven years.

First deliveries of U-UAP-built Ka-226Ts are slated to begin in about 15 months after the contract signature, while the joint venture is scheduled to deliver the first Indian-built machines four years after the contract inking date.

To meet the Make in India requirements, the eventual localisation of the Ka-226T’s production is set to be no less than 60%. At the same time, the engine supplier, Safran Helicopter Engines, is said to have also been involved in negotiations with the Indian MoD and the Indian aero engine industry for the localisation of the Arrius 2G1 turboshaft. In addition, Safran is said to has undertaken to certify the engine for operations at a maximum altitude of 6,500m.

The Indian MoD plans to field in army and air force service several Ka-226T sub-versions for undertaking a wide range of battlefield and support missions. The diverse list of the missions will range from casevac to varieties of reconnaissance operations and pilot training.

The Ka-226T’s co-axial rotor system layout has several advantages deemed very useful for operations in India’s demanding hot and high environment and in the harsh mountain conditions in the Himalayas. Kamov stated that this specific layout creates compact overall dimensions while its aerodynamic symmetry provides excellent stability and the lack of a tail rotor simplifies the control system.

It also claims a co-axial helicopter is able to fly in higher ambient temperatures than a conventional helicopter without experiencing too much performance degradation and it is also able to operate safely in strong turbulence such as that encountered while flying over the sea or mountainous terrain.

The Indian Ka-226T fleet, featuring the flying chassis design, will use several interchangeable cabin pods for passenger transport, cargo transport and CASEVAC (evacuation of casualties by air) duties. The time for changing one mission pod with another is within 40 minutes.

The number of detachable pods to be ordered will exceed the number of helicopters on order to provide an increased flexibility of use in a good many applications. For cargo transport, the pod will be replaced by an open cargo platform while external sling operations are set to be undertaken in the bare flying chassis configuration. The mission equipment of the SAR pod will include an external hoist rated at 270 kg. The helicopter is cleared for operations in temperatures ranging from -50 to +50⁰ Celsius. Service life is set at 18,000 flight hours and 30 years.

The Indian Ka-226Ts will be delivered in several configurations. A proportion of these will feature emergency flotation devices, air conditioning systems, armament (including a fire control system), EO payloads for surveillance and targeting, video-recorders, tactical video downlink, HMD and cueing systems, armour protection for the pilots in the cockpit and a set of stretchers.