Sunday, May 16, 2010

Augusta Westland Out Race to Win Indian Contract for 197 Light Utility Helicopters

In2003-04, India issued an RFP for 197 light helicopters to purchase 60 helicopters off the shelf and another 137 to be produced by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited at its Bangalore facility under a transfer of technology agreement. Later on this RFP was changed to complete off the shelf buy to induct these helicopter on fast track. Both Eurocopter’s AS550 C3 Fennec and Bell Textron’s 407 were offered to the India.

In July 2008, Indian Ministry of Defense had projected India would require atleast 384 Light Utility Helicopters to replace its existing fleet of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters in its armed service.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) which has lot of experience gained over the years manufacturing the Cheetah and Chetak, and then developing ingenious ALH Dhruv is developing its own light helicopter called Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). HAL has already floated a tender to invite bids for TurboShaft Engine along with associated instrumentation for integration on its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).

It was decided that 197 light helicopters will be procured from a foreign supplier while MoD will also purchase another 187 indigenously developed helicopter by HAL .HAL had displayed its 3t LUH concept powered by a single HAL/Turbomeca Shakti engine at Aero India 2009. HAL’s LUH will have a range of up to 500km and payload capacity of 500kg. First flight of this indigenously developed helicopter by HAL is scheduled for 2015.

Indian MoD issued new tender worth a $750 million for the purchase of 197 light utility helicopters for Indian armed forces. This new proposals was to buy 133 helicopters for Indian Army Aviation and another 64 for Indian Air Force.

Eurocopter Fennec won the contract but project suffered a setback due to irregularities in the evaluation process of bids and deal was scrapped. Eurocopter sent its civilian variant AS350 B3 Ecureil instead of sending military version AS550 C3 Fennec for the trials and aid that it was similar in capabilities to the military version.

Race to win this huge contract to sell 197 new light helicopters to Indian Army and air force has heated up as Augusta Westland is virtually out due to the fact that it has brought a civilian version of the helicopter instead of the military chopper it mentioned in the proposal. Other two competitors for light helicopters are Russia’s Kamov and Eurocopter. Due to this fact Augusta Westland was not invited for the latest round of consultations between the Armed forces and vendors.

Augusta Westland would soon be informed about the grounds for their exclusion from this deal. After these trials, Indian Army will prepare a complete report on the performance of the two machines by Kamov and Eurocopter and send it to the Indian MoD.

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