December 05, 2012
India says it has not canceled its plans to buy 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters, but “the procurement case is under examination,” according to Defense Minister A.K. Antony.
The proposed deal, worth more than $2 billion, has been mired in controversy following allegations that an Indian official had solicited a bribe from bidder AgustaWestland.
Antony has said that if any evidence is found of tender deviations or any other misconduct, the deal will be scrapped.
The procurement has already suffered one false start in 2007, when the defense ministry canceled a tender won by Eurocopter following allegations that bidders failed to follow guidelines. A new request for proposals was issued in 2008.
During trials involving bidders AgustaWestland, Sikorsky, Eurocopter and Russia’s Kamov, reports surfaced that a senior defense official sought money from AgustaWestland to manipulate the trial process.
Later, AgustaWestland and Sikorsky were ruled out of the race. Flight tests of the Eurocopter AS 350 Fennec and Russian Kamov 226 Sergei, which are still in the race, were completed in December 2010.
“The Defense Procurement Procedure lays down stringent guidelines to effect utmost probity and transparency in procurement transactions,” Antony said in parliament Dec. 5.
Of the 197 helicopters to be procured under the contract, the Indian army will receive 133, with the rest going to the air force. The aircraft will replace more than 350 Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.
Chetak photo: Indian navy