HAL to make 187 light choppers, army says ‘nothing doing’

April 10th, 2008 - 9:28 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will manufacture 187 of the 384 light helicopters the Indian military requires. But the Indian Army has “put its foot down” against the move, saying the state-owned company is already running behind schedule on crucial equipment deliveries. The Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) Thursday decided to invite a combined bid for 384 helicopters - 259 for the Indian Army and 125 for the India Air Force.

“The committee, at its meeting today (Thursday), decided to club together the demands of the army and the air force. A Request for Proposal (RFP) will soon be issued,” an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“One hundred and ninety-seven helicopters will be purchased in flyaway condition, while HAL will manufacture the rest under licensed transfer of technology,” the official added.

The deal, which will cost approximately $1.6 billion, will contain a clause for 50 percent offsets. This means that the company that wins the order will have to re-invest half of the cost in India.

The DAC decision comes three months after an Indian Army tender for 197 Eurocopter Fennec helicopters was scrapped due to discrepancies in the evaluation process.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjeet Singh, Defence Secretary V.K. Singh and other senior military officers attended the DAC meeting.

Even though the army has succeeded in getting the nod for an additional 62 helicopters from its earlier demand of 197, it is not happy with the idea of HAL manufacturing the machines.

“We had put our foot down against the proposal as it could delay the induction of the helicopters in the army,” an army official involved in the acquisition of hardware told IANS.

“HAL is into so many defence projects and they are running behind schedule in many of them,” he added.

HAL has seen delays to its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) projects amongst others.

Light helicopters are used by the army and the air force for ferrying supplies in high-altitude regions like the Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir - considered the world’s highest and coldest battlefield.

The Indian Army needs new helicopters to replace the ageing 1970s-vintage Chetak and Cheetah, as it modernises and expands its Army Aviation Corps (AAC) to meet current and future rapid mobility battlefield requirements. The air force too needs to replace its fleet of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.

According to defence sources, RFPs for 15 heavy-lift and 18 medium-lift helicopters are also “in the last stage of finalisation”.

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