Indian Rotorcraft, a joint venture between AgustaWestland and Tata Sons, has broken ground on a new helicopter manufacturing facility next to Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International airport, where the companies will assemble, customise and flight-test helicopters, starting with the eight-seat AW119KE light helicopter from mid-2013.
"The project is integral to our plans in the aerospace sector and we look forward to an enduring and successful partnership with AgustaWestland," says Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons.
Bruno Spagnolini, chief executive of AgustaWestland, says the facility will not only build helicopters for the Indian market, but also supply them to AgustaWestland's customers worldwide.
Work will start on the AW119KE light helicopter from mid-2013
"Indian Rotorcraft will initially create jobs for more than 70 highly-skilled staff who will be trained by AgustaWestland. We see great potential to expand this facility in the future to become a support and production centre for other helicopter types," Spagnolini adds.
The facility is being built on a 40,000m2 (430,500ft2) site in Hyderabad, where the Andhra Pradesh state government is keen to attract more aerospace businesses. Indian Rotorcraft's operation will include a 9,000m² building incorporating a main assembly facility, flight hangar, offices and several helicopter landing pads. It will have capacity to produce up to 30 helicopters a year and is designed to be further developed for other helicopter types, right up to the 16t AW101, say the companies.
India is viewed by helicopter manufacturers as one of the biggest potential growth markets in the next few years. AgustaWestland says it has sold nearly 50 commercial helicopters in the country during the past six years for missions including VIP and corporate transport, offshore oil and gas support, and general charter operations.
The joint venture is another step by Tata, India's largest and most well-known business group, to move into aerospace.
A separate joint venture between Tata and Sikorsky produces cabins for the S-92 helicopter in Hyderabad. There are also plans to manufacture up to 80% of the S-92 at the facility. The joint venture also manufactures components for various other military and commercial aircraft.