India to invite bids for 312 light helicopters

April 9th, 2008 - 8:41 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) India is in the advanced stage of inviting bids for 312 light helicopters for the army and the air force. The soon to be floated bids come about three months after the Indian Army tender for 197 Eurocopter Fennec helicopters was scrapped. The request for proposal (RFP) for the light helicopters - 197 for the army and 115 for the Indian Air Force - will be sent in a few days, said an official preferring anonymity.

The procedure has taken time as the demands of the army and air force had to be tallied and the incongruities sorted out, the official added.

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.

Light helicopters are useful for the forces in high-altitude regions like Siachen.

“Light helicopters will be inducted to increase the operational capability of the forces at high altitude by providing artillery and logistics support,” Defence Secretary Vijay Singh told reporters here.

Five contenders are in the fray: Eurocopter, Bell, Italy’s Agusta, and Russia’s Kamov and Kazan.

Last year the Bell-407 dropped out of race after the machine it sent for evaluation could not perform a three-axis vector, an essential requirement for flying in areas like the Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir.

The three-axis vector enables the helicopter perform a ‘U’ like manoeuvre to navigate adverse weather conditions in mountainous areas.

Meanwhile, according to defence sources the RFPs for 15 heavy lift and 18 medium lift helicopters are also “in the last stage of negotiations”.

Last year in December, the defence ministry scrapped the $550 billion Indian Army tender for 197 Eurocopter helicopters, pointing out discrepancies in the evaluation process.

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