New Delhi: India on Thursday invited a re-bid, this time for 197 utility helicopters for its army and air force. The helicopters are expected to be inducted into service by 2010 in a deal valued at Rs3,000 crore ($750 million), according to official estimates.
Overall, the army and the air force require 312 helicopters between the services, but the size of the tender has been reduced after an assurance from state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) that it would be in a position to develop and deliver 115 matching capability platforms over the next five to six years.
According to defence ministry officials, the request for proposal (RFP) is for 197 helicopters, with 133 for the army and 64 for the air force. These numbers are intended to replace ageing 1970s-vintage Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.
The Indian names refer to French designed, but HAL-constructed, Alouette helicopters.
The Indian Army urgently needs to not only to replace its ageing fleet but also expand the Army Aviation Corps (AAC) to meet current and future rapid mobility battlefield requirements.
According to officials, potential vendors have been given three months time to respond to the RFP. A further period of three months will be taken up for purposes of scrutiny of bids. Thereafter, the army and the air force will jointly evaluate the contending helicopters.
Officials said the process is likely to be completed by the end of 2009.
Keeping the previous cancelled bid in mind there will be at least six contenders in the fray: the Eurocopter AS550-C3 manufactured by a four-nation European consortium, the American Bell-407 and the Boeing MD500, the Italian Agusta Westland and Kamov and Kazan from Russia.
Interestingly, defence officials said that there will be licensed transfer of technology to HAL but only for purposes of maintenance.