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BackYou are here: NewsIndia Operation Green Hunt creates huge market for choppers


Operation Green Hunt creates huge market for choppers

The Telegraph (Calcutta)
Maoist whirr in chopper race
Bell’s Huey helicopter (top), which was used in the Vietnam war, and Eurocopter’s Fennec

New Delhi, Oct. 24: The counter-Naxalite drive often called Operation Green Hunt has resulted in a huge demand for helicopters that two global majors are vying to capture for the millions of dollars on offer.

The market for choppers has suddenly expanded with state and central police forces asking for more rotary-wing aircraft. There is a spurt in the demand because the Indian Air Force has told the Union home ministry it does not have enough to spare.

The Indian Air Force and the Indian Army are also in the middle of trials to buy hundreds of military helicopters. But global chopper-makers, Bell Textron and Eurocopter, are more enthused by the demand from the police forces because of the tardy process of military procurement.

Bell Textron is best known for the the UH-1 “Huey” – a legendary flying-machine that the US used in the war against the communist guerrillas (role models for the Naxalites) in Vietnam in the early 1970s – and was quicker off the blocks having sold its first helicopter in India nearly 53 years ago.

It has now sold more than 100 of different types of helicopters from its stable, increasingly to private and public sector companies. In 2009 alone, the company sold 22.

This week Eurocopter, part of the European aviation firm EADS, announced that it was setting up an Indian subsidiary. The company estimates that the Indian market will be worth nearly $ 140 million dollars in five years.

Bell Textron has 50 per cent of the Indian market for helicopters. Eurocopter India’s chief executive officer Marie-Agnes Veve said the company currently has 30 per cent of the market and is targeting a share of half the new demand in five years.

The market is estimated to be growing at 20 per cent year on year.

“We are looking only at the civilian and paramilitary markets,” she said. “We think we can sell 25 helicopters each year until 2015 because they are required in the (anti-) Naxalite operations and by private companies and as ambulances,” she added.

Bell and Eurocopter have been rivals for the military market in India too. In 2007, Eurocopter claimed to have won a bid to supply 197 helicopters for high-altitude tasks for the Indian army outracing Bell. Both Eurocopter and Bell also touched down on Mount Everest to demonstrate the power of their machines in the severe environment.

But Antony’s defence ministry cancelled that competition after suspicion that it was not conducted by the book. The companies are competing for the same order again.