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Deja vu! India wants to buy 10 of Russian Kamov Ka-31 AEW helicopters, again

NEW DELHI, (BM) – India thinks again and defines the purchase of ten AEW (Airborne Early Warning – radar discovery and aerial surveillance aircraft) Kamov Ka-31 “Helix” helicopters as compelling, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing AnalisiDifesa.

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BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that last year on May 7, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved the Rs 3,600 crore ($5,198,400,000) proposal to buy 10 Kamov-31 AEW Helicopters from Russia for the Indian Navy.

In January, the Indian newspaper The Economic Times had updated the status of the program: the Indian Navy had in fact decided to purchase only 6 of the 10 previously programmed helicopters from Russia.

The reason was in fact due to the insufficient allocation of funds for the Indian fleet which in 2020 had received only 5.8 billion dollars out of the 7.6 billion actually requested by the Navy General Staff.

Now in the classic pattern of contradictions typical of the New Delhi summits, the Asian country would have retraced its steps by announcing the absolute importance of the ten purchase program Ka-31 planned last year, in view of the expected entry into service in 2021 of the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

It is not known if this is a change in the destination of the funds allocated to the Navy or the release of new capital while Moscow is waiting for the signing of this contract worth approximately $ 500 million.

As with all Kamov helicopters except the Ka-60/-62 family, the Ka-31 has co-axially mounted contra-rotating main rotors. The airframe of the Ka-31 is based on the Kamov Ka-27. One visually distinctive feature of the Ka-31 is the large antenna of the early-warning radar, which is either rotating or folded and stowed under the fuselage. The second is the reduction of the bulky electro-optical sensory suite beneath the cockpit. The landing gear retracts in order to prevent interference with the radar.

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These helicopters are critical for the Indian Navy as they will help in increasing the radar coverage and will act as an extra set of eyes. The radars onboard the ships have a limited ‘horizon’, which are not able to track low-flying targets, in particular, anti-ship missiles. In 1999, the Indian Navy had ordered the Ka-31 AEW helicopters and they were deployed on board the INS Viraat aircraft carrier and other ships. There have been follow-on orders and so far there are around 14 Ka-31 helicopters in service of the Indian Navy.

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