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AgustaWestland case: IAF officials who conducted chopper trials under CBI scanner

The CBI, in its first charge sheet in the case, has alleged irregularities in the report prepared by the officers who held the field trials.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2017 22:07 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
VVIP Chopper Scam,AgustaWestland,India Air Force
An AgustaWestland helicopter(HT File Photo)

The CBI is looking into the role of Air Force and Special Protection Group (SPG) officers who conducted field evaluation trials (FET) of AgustaWestland and Sikorsky choppers, two contenders for the contract.

The CBI, in its first charge sheet in the case, has alleged irregularities in the report prepared by the FET.

Since the choppers were being procured for VVIP travel, besides the Air Force, the SPG, that guards the Prime Minister, former PMs and their family members, was also involved in the decision making process and the FET team consisted of both the Air Force and SPG officials.

“The role/involvement of the members of the FET is being looked into during further investigations (in the case),” said the CBI chargesheet.

The agency states that the field trials of AgustaWestland chopper was conducted by a trial team headed by an Air Commodore in January, 2008 in UK, while Sikorsky-made S-92 chopper was tested three weeks later in the US.

Choppers were to be tested in two configurations — VVIP version and non-VVIP freighter
version. According to the charge sheet, the AgustaWestland chopper offered for trial was in development stage and therefore the field trial was conducted on Merlin MK-3A chopper and a development helicopter called Civ-01, while S-92 trials were carried out on versions that were in standard production and offered for sale.

With regard to Agusta trials, the charge sheet states that the tests were to be conducted on offered versions of the choppers but the trial team didn’t do it.

The CBI alleged that AgustaWestland was allowed to use simulated data from lab tests, a mock-up and claims of future technologies under development but the actual aircraft should have been provided for test to meet the qualitative requirements. The FET team said when it tested both versions of S-92 chopper, they did not achieve service ceiling of 4.5km. But in case of Agusta, during service ceiling trials the FET team marked it as compliant the performance of non-VVIP chopper from Agusta just on the basis of assurance of the vendor and projected performance.

The charge sheet says for same kind of trials and with almost same kind of results Sikorsky chopper was declared a non-compliant or partially complaint but Agusta chopper passed the muster. The agency has termed these discrepancies outcome of a criminal conspiracy.

First Published: Oct 14, 2017 22:07 IST