Wednesday, May 12, 2010

DNA Exclusive : 197 Chopper Deal Threatened With Second Cancellation As Vendors Show Deviations In Trials

Defence ministry copter deal faces another hurdle
Suman Sharma. New Delhi

The procurement of 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters has run into trouble again. If reports emanating from the defence ministry are any indication, the copter purchase process will be halted and tender cancelled.The reason cited for imminent cancellation is deviations shown by the choppers fielded by the contenders in the trials, hence setting back the modernisation process of the army.Given the fact that the helicopter inventory of the Army is diminishing and procurement of these 197 choppers is said to be very critical in terms of operational necessity and defence preparedness.

In the interests of transparency the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had prepared grounds for cancellation of the Rs 3000 crore deal tender in 2007, when the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) asked the MoD to submit an explanation following an unprecedented objection raised by former National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan. The submitted report showed that the procurement process for the 197 helicopters did not follow set down guidelines.

The fresh global RFP, which was again issued in July 2008, went to five vendors namely the Russian Rosoboronexport for Kamovs, two manufacturers from the US- Bell and Sikorsky, European consortium's EADS' Eurocopter and Anglo-Italian Agusta Westland. Only three firms Eurocopter, ROE and Augusta Westland qualified for trials. It is gathered that the helicopter model AS550C3 offered by Eurocopter, according to the manufacturer’s documentation, was unable to perform the High Altitude Hover-Out-Of-Ground-Effect (HOGE) at 6000 meter pressure altitude, in the phase one of the field trials. Another deviation shown by Eurocopter is that it will require permanent attachments for carrying two stretchers and removal of co-pilot’s seat, which is a serious deviation from the RFP issued.

The new helicopters will replace the aging 1970s vintage Chetaks and Cheetahs, and will be for high altitude, surveillance and logistics.

Russian Kamov 226T offered by ROE has deviations with regard to its empty weight and size. A major problem for ROE is that the engine to be fitted on Kamov 226T will be Arrius 2G1 which is not yet certified.

While Agusta Westland, undergoing trials, too is said to be facing serious problems with the MoD due to misunderstanding on a nomenclature issue. DNA has learnt from reliable sources that there is a difference in the nomenclature of the engine of AW119 what has been quoted, by Agusta Westland, in the bid and fielded for trials, for which the Anglo-Italian manufacturer has appealed to MoD and has also come forward to clarify the issue. MoD is yet to hear it out.

The Finmeccanica-owned Augusta Westland has an an MoU with the Tata Group for its helicopters assembly in India. Eurocopter already has business tie-ups with the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The contract will follow the old Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP-2006), and will have to fulfill a 50 percent offset obligation as per the tender requirement.

Of the 197 helicopters, 64 are for the IAF while the remaining 133 are for the Army. The total number of helicopters are 384, of which 197 will be purchased and the remaining 187 will be produced under license by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The old tender had got cancelled in December 2007, at the behest of the MoD after middlemen, kickbacks and procurement deviations came to light. The 197 choppers in the old tender were only for the army, but later the IAF too pitched in their requirement of the same class of choppers, and a joint tender was decided on.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Suman,

Please correct the color of the text to something more readable please.