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Eurocopter expects the deal to be finalised in 'coming weeks'

The European aviation consortium said it is very much in contention in the Army's $600 mn contract to get 197 light helicopters.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2007 20:09 IST

European aviation consortium, Eurocopter, on Thursday said it was very much in contention in the Indian army's $600 million contract to acquire 197 light helicopters and was expecting the deal to be finalised in the "coming weeks".

"In February 2007 Eurocopter has been selected by the Indian army after a demanding and thorough evaluation," a company statement said here.

"Such a lengthy acquisition process is now expected to be finalised in the coming weeks," the statement said even as it rubbished claims of the company having used middlemen.

Under the international tenders floated in 2001 by the Defence Ministry, the army proposed to acquire 197 light helicopters, purchasing 37 outright and the remaining 160 by getting them manufactured in India in HAL under technology transfer.

The new helicopters are to replace Army Aviation's Chetak and Cheetah helicopters and the sale is expected to be biggest Helicopter deal in Asia.

The manufacturers expect larger spinoffs as the army purchase could lead to other two services, the Air Force and Navy, also buying these helicopters.

While admitting that it had presented AS350 B3 civilian version of the helicopter for trials, Eurocopter said the civilian version was exactly the same as its AS 550C3 military version in terms of airframe, systems, main gear box, rotor head and blades.

"We presented the civilian version of the Eurocopter in full knowledge of the army as well as Defence Ministry officials," the company officials said.

The statement said in the same manner its American rival Bell had also brought its civil version of the B407 for trials in India.

"The helicopter presented during the trials is identical to the one proposed to the Indian army's technical offers and have been duly evaluated by the committee comprising Army and Ministry of Defence officials," the statement said.

"All trials have been conducted with utmost transparency and professionalism," it said.

In conformity with Indian Defence procurement procedures, the field trials were verified by Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) appointed by the Ministry of Defence in 2005 prior to final selection. "At that time no irregularities have been pointed out by the TOC," the European company said.

The company said in July 2005, the military version of the shortlisted helicopter were demonstrated on ground and in flight by the Indian Army's evaluation team and Ministry of Defence representatives during fact finding visits to original manufacturers facilities in France and the US.

Reacting to allegations of involvement of middlemen in the deal, the European aviation giant said that Eurocopter and its parent company EADS fully complied with very strict French and European regulations on these issues. "Eurocopter has signed a pre-integrity pact with Ministry of Defence and have duly abided by it," the statement said.

The company said it was also active in Civilian helicopter market in India either through directly or through distributors as authorised by Indian regulations.

Eurocopter said it had signed a non exclusive distribution maintenance agreement for commercial helicopters with Global Vectra Helicorp, the largest private helicopter company in India and strongly denied any involvement of the company in its Governmental contracts.