New Delhi: The Indian Air Force has concluded helicopter trials of the AgustaWestland AW101 and Sikorsky S-92 helicopters in the period 14-19 January. The helicopters are competing in the tender for the Indian Air Force's (IAF) medium lift and VIP transport squadrons.
The IAF is likely to buy four $13 million, 30-passenger medium-lift helicopters, plus eight $25 million, 12-person VIP helicopters which are expected to be equipped with state-of-the-art, open-architecture gear for encrypted communications by the VIPs, including the prime minister.
Other features must also include the ability to fly at night and in bad weather with low vibration and low noise; carry modern sensors and jammers; provide protection against missile threats and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; fly up to 200 kilometres per hour; and also remain operational for 30 years.
Sikorsky and AgustaWestland were asked to carry out no-cost, no-commitment trials by India after a global tender was issued for such helicopters in 2006. Russian helicopter giant, Kamov, was disqualified early on in the game on technical grounds.
According to air force officials the contract is likely to be signed before March 2009.
The new copters are expected to replace aging Russian Mi-8 helicopters of the VIP squadron based at Delhi's Palam airport. These 12-ton aircraft were purchased in 1982 by the Air Force for search and rescue, and later converted for VIP transport.