The flight tests on the first Tata-made S 92 cabin have progressed satisfactorily, and the helicopter is now being customised for supply to Lider Aviacao of Brazil. Lider charters both aircraft and helicopters for multi applications, including for servicing offshore oil installations.
Sikorsky and Tata groups already have a 26:74 partnership joint venture simply called TARA, which manufactures and supplies about 4,300 detailed components to the Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. (TASL) in Hyderabad. TASL, a Tata company, makes the cabins, fits them with these components, and then sends the finished airframes to the Sikorsky facility at Coatsville in Pennsylvania in the US.
AVM Walia said that so far, 15 airframes had been supplied by the TASL. At present, the airframes are being produced at the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of 2/ month but should be moved to 3/ month in accordance with the demand by 2013.
The production moves as in a conveyor belt and the made-in-India airframes (cabins) would operate anywhere in the world, from wherever the orders come.
In meetings with this writer in London recently, two of Sikorsky’s top executives said that Sikorsky would develop India as a hub for manufacturing in the coming years, depending though on the Indian and international requirements.
Steve Estill, Vice President strategic partnerships, and Bob Kokorda, Vice President worldwide sales and marketing, said that while the S 92 is primarily a civilian helicopter, Sikorsky was open to manufacture military helicopters in India also.
A significant offer by the company, they pointed out, is to develop high altitude helicopter for India which could be deployed comfortably in heights above 20,000 feet for both military and logistic operations.
India has the toughest battlefield requirements, like no other in the world, due to the Himalayan heights, as in Siachen.
Both Mr Kakorda and Mr Estill said that Sikorsky could do R&D for this exclusive venture either in collaboration with an Indian entity like HAL, or by itself, depending upon the mandate given by the Indian Government. The proposed machine would involve newer technologies and high use of advanced composite materials.
AVM Walia said that he had already mentioned this offer to Indian authorities in discussions. “The Indian specifications are very difficult and any solutions would need unique rotor technologies and advanced performance parameters.”
The idea is to develop a helicopter which can do reconnaissance and land at Siachen-like heights with full load of cargo or troops, a capability which does not exist anywhere in the world yet.
At present, IAF and Indian Army operate HAL made Cheetal and Dhruv helicopters with partial load in extreme conditions and with extreme care.
Notably, Sikorsky has already signed an agreement with the Tatas to produce military helicopters in India.
AVM Walia pointed out that it took only four years to produce the airframes after the initial agreement between the two groups in 2007. The first airframe, or cabin, was produced in October 2011 and sent to the US for installation of Cockpit, engines, systems and whatever.
“We mean well and we mean business, on-time performance and deliveries, precision qualities and latest technologies,” AVM Walia observed.
Neither of the three Sikorsky officers disclosed the cost of an airframe but industry sources said that normally it should be around 15 per cent of the flying machine, depending upon the systems and avionics.
The S 92 is a large, twin-engine rotorcraft with four blades. It can be used both for civil and military deployment.
Asian Defence News