PANAJI: While Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's (HAL) maintenance, repair and overall facility in Honda is primarily for helicopter engines, its partnership with French aerospace giant Safran, makes it a likely candidate to repair Dassault Aviation's Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft engines. Speaking to TOI, HAL's chairman Suvarna Raju said that setting up a facility in Goa was a natural choice given that several aircraft were already operating at the state's defence airbases.
Defence public sector unit HAL and Safran have formed a dedicated joint venture to setup a dedicated helicopter engine support center."Even if you are looking at the joint venture itself, these are the possibilities. We know that the Rafale deal has been inked. Now the Rafale engine is the Safran aircraft engine (Snecma M88). You never know what bit of it we could get. HAL being the expert in the aerospace industry and with the Snecma or Safran aircraft engines together we already have a lead," Raju told TOI.
HAL will formally take over the assets of Goa Auto Accessories Limited (GAAL) on October 23 and lay the foundation stone for the Rs 170 crore helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Honda. This facility will provide maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) services for Safran TM 333 and HAL Shakti engines that power HAL-built helicopters.
The Shakti engines currently power HAL's advanced light helicopter (ALH), the Dhruv, and will also power the indigenous light combat helicopter (LCH).
"It's not only the helicopter engines which we are trying to do on MRO but we want to bring in other engines as well. We have teams working at the naval base in Goa. They take care of the Dorniers, they take care of the Cheetah, Chetak helicopters. We have the Mig-29K aircraft that is flying here. There are certain requirements which the Navy wants us to handle and we can use this place more effectively," Raju said.
Given that HAL has been in operation in Goa for the last 20 years and already services Indian Navy and Coast Guard helicopters in Goa, setting-up a base here was a "natural choice." Initially, HAL expects to train technicians in Goa and then move them out to forward operating military bases where the helicopters are in service. The overhauling of helicopter engines is expected four-five years later.
Besides the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, HAL says the Kamov 226T light utility helicopter engines could also find their way to Goa for repairs, though it is still early to draw such conclusions. After the Indo-Russia bilateral meet ahead of the BRICS 2016 summit, HAL and Rostec inked an agreement to jointly produce 200 Ka-226T helicopters in India. The Ka-226T helicopters are powered by Turbomeca Arrius 2G engines, which is again manufactured by Safran.
"Fundamentally, the core business in India for this engine MRO is with HAL. Possibly we wouldn't have required any partner but then we are bringing in the original equipment manufacturer to India. The best way to do it, is through a joint venture so the man who made it (the engine) in France is here in India," Raju said to sum up the prospects of the joint venture.