Bids for 312 helicopters invited
Close on the heels of floating multi-billion dollar global tenders for buying long-range artillery guns, India plans to invite international bids for purchase of 312 light helicopters.
The tenders for these helicopters, 197 for the army aviation and another 115 for the air force, are expected to be floated in the next few days and are estimated to be worth over two billion dollars.
India plans to buy these helicopters to give its forces capability of rapid devlopment and for logistics support on the icy heights of Siachen glacier.
"These choppers are being inducted to enhance the operational capability of the armed forces in the high Himalayan frontiers", according to Defence Secretary Vijay Singh.
Textron-based American helicopter major Bell, European arms major EADS, Russia's Kamov and Italian Augusta Westland are expected to be the main bidders for the Indian tenders.
The four helicopter manufacturers were also the bidders in the Indian army request for proposals for 197 helicopters, which was cancelled at the last moment after government said rules of procurement had been flouted by a bidder. At the time of cancellation of the deal, officials were engaged in price negotiation.
The combined army and IAF tenders were to be out in the first week of April, but were delayed as the air force was late in firming up its requirements, according to officials.
The tenders would be floated after they are cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council meeting on April 10, officials said.
The new helicopters are being inducted to replace IAF's and army ageing fleet of French-acquired Chetak and Cheetah helicopters which have been operating now for more than three decades.
Along with plans to acquire these new light helicopters, India is also in advanced stage of negotiations with Russia on purchase of 80 medium lift advanced version of the MI-17 helicopters.
"The medium choppers are being purchased to boost up IAF's logistic capability," Singh told reporters.
The Defence Secretary said army and IAF had also concluded a major deal with Hindustan Aeronautics for purchase of 166 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH). These would be inducted in phases by 2011.
He said ALH had performed well in high altitudes and Srinagar-based 15 Corp had procured a number of them for use in high altitude areas.