Tender for 197 military helicopters to be floated Thursday

July 23rd, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) India will invite bids for 197 utility helicopters for the army and the air force Thursday and the choppers are expected to be inducted by 2010, an official said. The deal has been valued at Rs.30 billion ($750 million). Between them, the two services require 312 helicopters but the size of the tender was reduced after state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) assured the defence ministry that it would be in a position to develop a similar platform and supply the remaining 115 machines in the next five to six years, a defence ministry official said.

“The request for proposal (RFP) for 197 helicopters - 133 for the army and 64 for the air force - will be issued tomorrow (Thursday),” the official added.

The Indian Army urgently needs replacements for its ageing 1970s-vintage Chetak and Cheetah helicopters, as it modernises and expands its Army Aviation Corps (AAC) to meet current and future rapid mobility battlefield requirements.

The Indian Air Force also uses Chetaks and Cheetahs ferrying supplies in high-altitude regions like the Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir - considered the world’s highest and coldest battlefield.

“Three months time will be given to the vendors to respond to the RFP, followed by three months of scrutiny (of the bids received). Thereafter, the army and the air force will jointly evaluate the helicopters (on offer). This process is likely to be completed by the end of 2009,” the official said.

Six contenders are in the fray: the Eurocopter AS550-C3 manufactured by a four-nation European consortium, the Bell-407 and the MD500 of the US, the Agusta of Italy, and the Kamov and Kazan of Russia.

The deal will be based on the Defence Procurement Procedures-2006 (DPP-2006) as the rervised DPP-2008 is yet to be announced.

“There will be a licensed transfer of technology to HAL but only for maintenance of the helicopters,” the official added.

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