Saturday, January 23, 2010

India is Scrambling to Sign Deal to Purchase AW-101 VVIP Helicopter


Huma Siddiqui

Indian Defence ministry is scrambling to sign a deal to purchase Italian Augusta Westland VVIP helicopter before the Budget is presented. According to sources, “It is keen to utilise the Budget allocation rather than surrender it.”

The defence ministry short listed Finmeccanica’s helicopter division, Augusta Westland, as it emerged the frontrunner in a multi-million contract to supply 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopter for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Worth Rs 3, 726 crore (Rs 310 crore each), the helicopter would be used by the President and the Prime Minister. Cabinet Committee on Security, too, gave its clearance early December after finance ministry gave the purchase a go ahead.

The Indian contract, which is expected to be signed soon for the flying offices equipped with advanced communication aids and self-protection devices, is likely to be the greatest Italian export to India since 1960s. While the IAF would buy 12 helicopter, the US has placed an order for 20 machines.

Talking to FE on conditions of anonymity sources said, “A high-level team of IAF test pilots and engineers have evaluated the deal.” According to industry sources, “The IAF deal is very prestigious for the company, especially when one is looking at an aircraft of this nature. Safety is important.” In 2009, the finance ministry had declined its approval for the deal on the grounds that the machines were too expensive at Rs 310 crore each.

Reportedly, the ministry had objected to the IAF narrowing their selection to a single vendor for seeking price bid. It had pointed out that what AgustaWestland quoted for 12 AW-101 had overrun the estimated outlay of Rs 1,400 crore approved in 2006. AgustaWestland was the sole firm that qualified the technical norms set by the IAF.

The new machines are to replace the Mi-17 machines in the Air Headquarters Communication Squadron, as the VVIP transport squadron is called, will be equipped with flare dispensers and special self-defence systems. With two deals already signed— one for 5 mid-sized Embraer 135 BJ Legacy jets in 2003 and the other for 3 Boeing Business Jets in 2005—this will be the third deal.

The EH-101 will have self-defense systems like missile warners, flare dispensers and directed infrared electronic counter measures for protection. The existing Russian Mi-8s and Mi-17s would be replaced with these newer versions of advanced jets. These helicopter would have a high tail boom, which would allow the VVIP cars to come near the rear exit staircase.

According to company executives, the helicopter can even be ferried in transport plane, if the PM or President wants to travel abroad. The 30-seater helicopter also has a cushy special lounge and will have a full-fledged communication suite. Westland and Sikorsky were the two companies short-listed for the Indian VVIP fleet. Sikorsky’s S-92 is used by nine heads of states in the world, but the IAF has zeroed in on Westland recently.
The Anglo-Italian company is also in talks with state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) as a partner for the various helicopter bids, to meet the offset condition. The two companies have worked together on maintenance of the Indian Navy’s Sea King helicopter fleet.

India to get 12 EH/AW-101 helicopters

Financial Express

1 comments:

Good equipment , but this deal smells of corruption.

How does the FM justify this deal, when he rejected the A-330 refueller deal for precisely the same reasons?

The politicians wants all luxuries when denying the armed forces the necessities.

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