September 18, 2020
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Eurocopter and Kamov are technically qualified  

The long delayed 197 helicopter deal is making fresh progress as the Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) of the Ministry of Defence has cleared both the vendors as technically qualified for the much awaited deal.

No doubt this has given the chopper deal a much awaited impetus yet the recommendations of the TOC is not mandatory for the MoD to accept in total but it is understood that the deal will now make progress and proceed to price assessment stage.

Both Eurocopter and Kamov are in the competition. While the European EADS company has fielded its French-made AS550C3, Russian arms giant Rosoboronexport has put its Kamov 226T for the deal with extra load capacity.

MoD sources said that this is a major development for the chopper deal as the Army is in dire need of helicopters for transportation, operational and field requirements in the far flung areas.

But this has given a small turn to the whole chopper deal as the TOC has unknowingly rejected the earlier report of the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) of the MoD which had produced the trial report of the both the vendors.

In that TEC report, MoD sources said, both vendors were almost getting disqualified as none could meet the requirement of the High Altitude Hover-Out-Of-Ground-Effect (HOGE) at 6,000 metre pressure altitude clause.

Although this could still be a problem at times, the deal was heading for a freeze as the MoD was unable to take a decision with the height capacity of the platforms.

“The 6000 mtr criteria was bit high for the manufacturers all over the world as nobody has a battlefield or troop stationing post at that height and there is no such platform existing to meet Indian needs in a pure form. Thus, one has to be practical and choose from what is available,” remarked a senior MoD official who was looking after the procurement.

Timely decision

But the TOC went through the details of the TEC report and overruled ceiling height issue previously mentioned in the original tender and lowered down some of the parameters slightly so that the deal can move forward.

The TOC has emphasized on other vital aspects such as safety, fuel efficiency and air worthiness in difficult weather conditions, instead of hanging on the ceiling height issue which may have crippled the deal totally. Already, the chopper the deal has been postponed 3 times before.

The MoD has given its consent in principle in favor of such recommendations from TOC as the former Army Chief General V K Singh had cited in his letter to the Prime Minister that the Army is lacking logistical capacity to sustain its troop deployment due to non-availability of choppers.

This is all set to clear the final hurdle for the chopper deal which was languishing on the ground of technical qualifications of the both the platforms.

Now, the chances of opening of the price bid are quite clear. Once the MoD gives its green signal then the internal costing and benchmarking will start within two to three months to evaluate the vendors’ cost to technology ratio.

Earlier, the Defence Acquisition Council has given approval for 695 helicopters which comprises 384 light, 80 medium lift, 22 attack, 16 anti-submarine warfare, 15 heavy lift and 12 VVIP helicopter, the projections from Army, Navy and the Air Force.

Out of the 197 Light Utility Helicopters, 135 are meant for the Army and the rest to the Air Force.

In the final short list are the two companies, the European Eurocopter and the Russian Kamov who have undergone extensive trials in India. These helicopters will replace the vintage Cheetah and Chetak helicopters procured in seventies and later license produced in Indian HAL.

The projected cost is expected to be US$ 1.5 billion. The RFP for these helicopters were issued in July 2008 after the Defence Minister A K Antony canceled the final selection choice to the Eurocopter.

The Eurocopter has been supporting Indian Army Chetak and Cheetah fleet since last four decades.

Eurocopter has claimed that it produces one helicopter daily and its manufacturing facilities would be able to meet Indian requirements to supply 197 helicopters in five years if the deal is awarded to them.

Earlier, the Kamov producer company head, Igor Chichikov, had claimed during the 2012 Defexpo that Russia’s chances of winning the tender are very high, although without much basis.

The logistics challenges for the Indian Army on the icy heights of borders with Pakistan and China are ever growing and the Indian Army and the IAF needs the urgent replacements for these Cheetah and Chetaks.