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India Negotiating Sale of Maritime Helicopters to Philippines

Indian state-owned aerospace and defense company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is negotiating the sale of at least seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and eight Dornier 228 aircraft to the Philippines.

The contract, potentially worth a record Indian rupees 3,000 crore ($400 million), would be India’s largest-ever defense sector export.

The Philippines is interested in importing the maritime variant of the Dhruv ALH, which the company produced at the request of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard earlier this year. It integrated the Dhruv Mark III helicopter with maritime policing capabilities, resulting in the Dhruv MK III Maritime Role (MR).

A report in Business Standard said Manila had narrowed down to two options: the Dhruv MK III MR and Airbus Helicopters Panther AS565. The report quoted HAL chairman R Madhavan confirming the Philippines’ interest to purchase the helicopters.

Dhruv MK III MR Helicopter

The initial version of the Dhruv ALH helicopter, the Dhruv Mark I, was sold to the Indian army for Indian rupees 45-50 crore ($6-7 million). However, the newer Mark III — featuring a glass cockpit and anti-vibration dampers — costs up to Indian rupees 70 crore ($9 million). Aircraft features include onboard radar, an electro-optical pod, a searchlight, tracker beam, and traffic collision avoidance system.

HAL said in a statement last month that it is planning to produce around 30 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) each year. The company has already delivered 320 Dhruv ALHs to the Indian military.

Major Supplier to Indian Military

Though HAL exports defense carriers and equipment in small numbers, it is a major supplier to the Indian Army.

In November, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over 19 HAL-built LCHs to the country’s air force in a ceremony. The LCH is a twin-engine, 5.8-ton class helicopter with a narrow fuselage and crash-resistant landing gear.

“LCH is the only Attack Helicopter in the world which can land and take-off at an altitude of 5,000 m (16,400 ft) with considerable load of weapons & fuel meeting the specific requirements of Indian Armed Forces,” the company statement read.

This week, the Indian government also revealed that HAL will manufacture four light utility helicopters for the army and air force by 2022-23. HAL is expected to build another eight such aircraft the following year.

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