The procurement of 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters has run into trouble again. If reports emanating from the defence ministry are any indication, the copter purchase process will be halted and tender cancelled.
The reason cited for imminent cancellation is deviations shown by the choppers fielded by the contenders in the trials.
This will be the second time when the tender will be cancelled, the first being in December 2007. The tender was re-issued in July 2008, but after two years of government efforts to take the process ahead, it will meet the same fate. With the helicopter inventory of the Army diminishing, procurement of these choppers is critical for operational necessity and defence preparedness.
The defence ministry had prepared ground for cancellation of the Rs3,000-crore deal tender in 2007 when the Central Vigilance Commission asked it to explain the cancellation following an objection by former national security advisor MK Narayanan.
The report indicated that the procurement process did not follow set guidelines. The fresh global tender went to five companies namely the Russian Rosoboronexport (ROE) for Kamovs, two manufacturers from the US — Bell and Sikorsky, European consortium’s EADS’ Eurocopter and Anglo-Italian Agusta Westland. Only three firms Eurocopter, ROE and Augusta Westland qualified for trials.
The helicopter model offered by Eurocopter was unable to perform high altitude hover-out-of-ground-effect (HOGE). The problem with ROE’s Kamov was that the engine to be fitted on Kamov 226T will be Arrius 2G1 which is not yet certified. While Agusta Westland, was facing serious problems with the MoD due to misunderstanding on a nomenclature issue.
The new helicopters will replace the aging 1970s vintage Chetaks and Cheetahs, and will be for high altitude, surveillance and logistics.

BY:Suman Sharma / DNA