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Eurocopter in talks with army for combat helicopters

Aparna Kalra

New Delhi, Aug 18: Eurocopter, the largest helicopter company in the world, has held initial rounds of talks with the Indian Defence authorities to market its combat helicopters to the latter.

"We have given all information concerning our range of Defence helicopters to the Indian armed forces" said Eurocopter external relations vice-president J Dubreuil to a group of reporters in the capital.

Though the army had not called upon the combat Mi-35s which it possesed during the Kargil war, it is reportedly keen on examining combat aircraft to meet its future needs.

The Indian forces had used the Mi-17 helicopters in the Kargil operation to assist in troop movements. It has also put the `Cheetah' and `Chetak' helicopters to great use for dropping supplies in the mountain areas.

Incidentally, the prototype for the `Cheetah' and the `Chetak' were first developed by the Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronauticals Ltd (HAL) in partnership with Eurocopter.

Dubreuil said that his company is keen to renew its partnership with HAL.

"Eurocopter is keen to assist HAL in developing the advanced light helicopter (ALH)," he added.

The ALH project is being keenly awaited in defence circles though experts mantain that the project has been inordinately delayed.

"The project is the first of its type for HAL. So they are making sure to get it right," said Dubreuil, answering queries on whether the ALH has been delayed.

Eurocopter is also keen to partner HAL is any project which is aimed at replacing the current crop of `Cheetah' and `Chetak' helicopters.

A total of 580 such helicopters have been made by HAL, out of which 24 are with the public-sector Pawan Hans. The remaining helicopters are with the Indian armed forces.

Eurocopter has ambitious plans for the Indian market for its civil range of helicopters also. It plans to capture 50 per cent of the Indian helicopter market in the next five years.

Out of a total of 110 helicopters which currently operate in India, 37 are from Eurocopter. The remaining are from rival companies like Bell Helicopters, and helicopters of Russian make such as the MIs.

Eurocopter has envisaged that the Indian market will grow steadily for the next five years, with 10-12 machines being purchased every year.

This is in sharp contrast to the global trend where the helicopter market has been reducing in size.

Eurocopter is based in Marseille, France. It is owned 70:30 by the French and German governments. The company, which had a turnover of nearly $2 billion in 1997-98, is the largest helicopter company in the world in terms of turnover.

It manufactures both civilian and military helicopters, with over 11,108 aircraft ordered with 1,702 operatoors in 132 countries.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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