US pressure robs chopper order from Hindustan Aeronautics

May 4th, 2008 - 1:06 pm ICT by admin  

By Liz Mathew
Santiago, May 4 (IANS) India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has lost out on an ambitious deal to sell its Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv to Chile due to “arm twisting” by the US, Indian officials here allege. Chile, was keen to purchase the Dhruv, but overrode India’s offer despite the best price offered and finalised the deal with Bell, a US-Canada joint venture, said the officials. The Chilean government was apparently under severe pressure from the US to go for Bell, diplomatic sources said.

“It was a political decision. The Chilean authorities admitted it was the result of arm twisting by the US,” said a diplomatic official who did not want to be named.

According to several sources, HAL had offered six indigenously developed Dhruv helicopters with spares at $46 million.

“Eurocopter, Russian and Polish companies were also there for the bid. But we were leading with the best pricing,” the sources told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The Chilean government finally settled for four heavier class Bell-412 Helicopters for $100 million instead of the Dhruvs, said one source.

“The explanation - which was given at our pursuance - was that they wanted to standardise the fleet of helicopters and other aircraft as they were all from Bell,” the official added.

The Chilean Air Force had made a request for proposal for the 5.5 tonne, twin engine new generation helicopter in May last year.

HAL was also negotiating with Bolivia and Peru for ALHs. HAL had for some years now been demonstrating ALH in the terrains of Chile which were similar to India’s.

The state-run company, which doubled its turnover in three years to $2 billion in 2007-08, has a secure order to supply 159 Dhruvs to the Indian military and the home ministry.

This apart, the multi-role helicopter has also been exported to Nepal and Israel and a civilian version is also available. The specialised military variant has the capability of anti-submarine warfare.

The production of this multi-role, multi-mission helicopter in the 5.5-tonne class was started in 2000-01 and is designed to meet the requirements of both military and civil operators.

With both utility and attack roles, its twin-engine configuration also allows a continued flight through a mission.

The Sarang aerobatic team of the Indian Air Force, which uses Dhruv, is said to be one of the world’s three such aerobatic teams in the copter segment. The team is named after India’s national bird peacock and has been a regular showpiece at air shows in India and overseas.

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