The air force’s AgustaWestland VVIP choppers have resumed regular flying, after some hiccups due to unavailability of essential spares.
A top IAF source said the defence ministry had agreed to an air force proposal to order the release of spares that had been gathering dust at a warehouse here after the controversial Rs. 3,760-crore contract was put on hold in February following bribery allegations.
As reported by HT on May 2, keeping the three AW-101 choppers already inducted and airworthy had turned out to be a challenge for the IAF due to restrictions accompanying the government’s decision to freeze the deal for 12 choppers.
“Flying was restricted until now as we didn’t have access to spares. We are now back to routine flying training to keep the keep aircrew qualified for VVIP flying duties,” the source said.
The VVIP chopper deal is the first instance of a military contract being put on hold after deliveries had begun. The government had in February put on hold all further payments to AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence group Finmeccanica. It has so far paid up the chopper firm Rs. 1,300 crore.
No decision has yet been taken to blacklist the firm, as the defence ministry is waiting for the CBI to wrap up its probe into the allegations.
The firm is currently bidding for two more Indian contracts to supply 56 utility helicopters to the navy and 15 twin-engine choppers to the coast guard.