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Big breakthrough for HAL as Argentina begins detailed talks to buy Indian helicopters for its armed forces

The indigenous Light Utility Helicopter at HAL facility in Bengaluru (Image courtesy: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)

Taking a major step to anchor their military ties, India and Argentina on Thursday signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) on productive cooperation and acquisition of Light and Medium Utility Helicopters for the Argentine armed forces.

Argentine Defence Minister Jorge Taiana, who began his four-day India visit from New Delhi on Monday, signed the LoI along with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chairman and Managing Director C B Ananthakrishnan at the HAL headquarters in Bengaluru Thursday afternoon.

Argentina, which has been looking at renewal of its helicopter fleet, expressed its interest in incorporating the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) model through a productive cooperation project.

HAL already has agreements in place with the Argentine Air Force for the maintenance of the engines of its Lama helicopters and with the Argentine Aircraft Factory (FAdeA) for joint development in the aerospace sector.

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Argentine Defence Minister Jorge Taiana and Francisco Cafiero, Secretary International Affairs, Argentine Ministry of Defence, at the headquarters of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bengaluru, on Thursday

On Thursday, Taiana and the accompanying entourage learnt about the technological and productive capacities developed by HAL as they toured the different plants where helicopters and combat aircrafts, including LCA Tejas, are manufactured.

“These activities, added to the bilateral meetings held with the Minister of Defence, have strengthened the ties of trust and cooperation between the two countries, while providing a platform to develop new opportunities working together in the field of defence,” said the Argentine Defence Minister.

Argentina helicopters

The LUH is a three-tonne class, new generation, single engine multipurpose utility helicopter indigenously designed and developed by Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre of HAL with features suitable for operations in diverse operating conditions.

It is powered by a single turbo shaft engine Ardiden 1U from France’s Safran Helicopter Engine (SHE) with adequate power margins to accomplish high altitude missions in the Himalayas with ease. LUH is equipped with Smart Cockpit Display System (glass cockpit), state-of-the-art HUMS (Health & Usage Monitoring System) and is designed for various utility and armed roles.

The HAL plans to produce more than 1,000 helicopters in the range of 3-15 tonnes, with a total business of over Rs four lakh crores over a period of 20 years, from its Greenfield Helicopter Factory that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Tumakuru in Karnataka, earlier this year.

Spread across 615 acres of land, the factory is planned with a vision to become a one-stop solution for all helicopter requirements of the country and will initially produce around 30 helicopters per year that will be enhanced to 60 and then 90 per year in a phased manner.

PM Modi Helicopter
PM Narendra Modi dedicates to the nation HAL Helicopter Factory at Tumakuru, Karnataka on February 6, 2023 (Image courtesy: PIB)

After producing LUHs, the factory will be augmented to produce other helicopters such as Light Combat Helicopters (LCHs) and Indian Multirole Helicopters (IMRHs). It will also be used for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) of LCH, LUH, Civil Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and IMRH in the future. Potential exports of civil LUH will also be catered to from this factory.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, Buenos Aires has been showing a keen interest in acquiring India’s indigenously designed and developed helicopters, state-of-the-art modern fourth-generation Tejas fighter jet and also Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles.

Not just Tejas, Brahmos and Prachand also on procurement radar of visiting Argentinian Defence Minister

Top-level Argentine defence delegations have visited India and participated in a series of high-level meetings, not just with the Ministry of Defence but also the HAL – the largest industrial aeronautics company in India and one of the most important in Asia – since March 2022.

During the DefExpo 2022 held in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar, an Argentinian touring party led by Lieutenant General Juan Martin Paleo, Joint Chief of Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces, spent quite a bit of time at the HAL stall at Asia’s largest defence event.

HAL Director (Operations) E P Jayadeva and D K Sunil, Director (Engg and R&D) briefed Paleo and other senior officials about the various futuristic defence products on display.

The Argentinian General also had a good look at the indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Prachand’ which was just inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF).

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Lieutenant General Juan Martin Paleo, Joint Chief of Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces, at the DefExpo 2022 in Gandhinagar (Image courtesy: Twitter/@HALHQBLR)

Last month, Taiana received a HAL delegation, accompanied by Indian Ambassador to Argentina Dinesh Bhatia, at his office in Buenos Aires.

The HAL team also held a meeting with the chief of Argentine Air Force, Brigadier General Xavier Isaac and his technical team besides presenting options for helicopters manufactured in India to Lieutenant General Guillermo Olegario Pereda, the country’s army chief.

Immediately after, on June 19, the Argentine Aircraft Factory (FAdeA) and HAL signed an agreement on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show with the aim of exploring possibilities in commercialization and joint development of products.

The collaboration, said the Argentine Defence Ministry, represents a valuable opportunity for FAdeA to enter the Indian market and, in turn, access the Asian market in its set and, at the same time, allows HAL to expand in the Latin American market, having FAdeA as its main partner in the region.

Also Read: Tejas on mind, Argentine Armed Forces chief takes close look at HAL’s prowess

IndiaNarrative.com reported on Tuesday that after Taiana’s meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi, both countries have agreed to the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a training agreement that will deepen cooperation in defence matters and enhance the ongoing strategic partnership that unites both countries.

A MOU on cooperation in the defence sector is already in place between India and Argentina that was signed during former Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s visit to New Delhi in February 2019.

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Argentine Defence Minister Jorge Taiana signing the LoI with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chairman and Managing Director C B Ananthakrishnan at the HAL headquarters in Bangalore on Thursday

“We are here to perfect and deepen the agreements we have and sign some others. One of them is a Memorandum of Understanding that is richer in content and concrete possibilities than the one currently in force,” said Taiana, adding: “I think we have a concrete opportunity in the field of Defence, where we can give a quality leap in cooperation between the two countries”.

During their meeting, the two Defence Ministers discussed issues related to bilateral cooperation and exchange in areas of training and training of officers and cadets besides also measures to enhance defence industrial partnership.

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with the visiting Minister of Defence of Argentine Republic Jorge Enrique Taiana in New Delhi on Tuesday (Image courtesy: PIB)

Interestingly, just after landing in the Indian capital on Monday along with Francisco Cafiero, Secretary International Affairs, Argentine Ministry of Defence, Taiana visited the BrahMos Aerospace facility and met with the Indo-Russian aerospace and defence corporation’s CEO and Managing Director Atul Dinkar Rane.

Also Read: India and Argentina reboot defence ties as New Delhi scouts for new opportunities in Latin America

Also Read: Will Argentina lead demand for India’s Tejas fighter jets in Latin America?