Airbus Helicopters is still hunting for orders from the Indian military which, if successful, could see multiple new production lines established in the country.
At present, New Delhi is running three separate procurement contests for a combined total of almost 250 rotorcraft.
The smallest of these is a 14-unit requirement from the Indian coastguard for search and rescue helicopters for which the airframer is offering the H225M, against likely competition from Sikorsky’s S-92.
If Airbus Helicopters wins, the Super Pumas would be built at its Marignane site in the south of France, said Fabrice Cagnat, vice-president of strategy and marketing Asia-Pacific, at a Singapore air show briefing.
However, victory in two other Indian contests – the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) and Naval Multi-Role Helicopter (NMRH) programmes, for 111 and 123 aircraft, respectively – would require significant levels of local assembly.
The more valuable contest is for the NMRH, which Airbus Helicopters is addressing with the H225M.
Production would be established in India, with Adani Defence, Bharat Forge, Mahindra Aerospace, and Tata Group likely to be pre-selected by New Delhi as possible local partners.
Should H225Ms be built in India, it would be the third final assembly line for the type after existing plants in Marignane and Brazil.
For the NUH effort, Airbus Helicopters is offering a choice of the H145M light-twin or the older medium-class AS565 MBe Panther. Should the Panther come out on top, it would mark a second success – and production line – in the region for a Dauphin derivative, with Korea Aerospace Industries already developing its H155-based LUH and LCH models.
While Airbus Helicopters continues to market the civil LUH on behalf of KAI, the LCH military variant could conceivably be pitched against the Panther for some contests, admits Cagnat.
But as he notes “we are collaborating with Leonardo on the NH90 [but] that does not mean we are always with Leonardo”.
Cagnat points out that in the event of a NUH contract win, Panther production would relocate entirely to India, but the rotorcraft would remain an Airbus Helicopters product.