Indian Light Copter Bid Extended 7 Times, Could Exasperated Airbus Eject?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Two days after India's new government took office on May 26, Airbus Helicopters(formerly Eurocopter) wrote the latest in a string of exasperated letters to the head of the Indian MoD's acquisition wing. The letter, like every one of those before it, nearly pleaded for an early decision in India's light helicopter competition that has remained more or less adrift for six years since bids were first submitted.

The competition for 197 light reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters (RSH) -- 133 for the Army and 64 for the IAF -- began in July 2008. Airbus' letter last month is only the latest instalment of what has for a while been a painfully protracted graveyard spiral. The letter devotes a paragraph to grave support issues vexing the Cheetah/Chetak fleet of light choppers in service with the IAF and Army at high altitudes (this newspaper report two daysafter Airbus' letter draws attention to precisely that), where the new choppers are intended as replacements. Last year, the deal was singed by investigations into India's now infamous AgustaWestland VVIP copter deal. It was an ambiguous mess until the two companies -- the other RusHeliCo for the Ka-226T Sergei -- were told around Christmas last year that things would move forward.

Airbus sources says the company's commercial bid, first submitted in December 2008, has been extended a record seven times. Reluctant to extend the bid for the seventh time last year, the company was told by the MoD that there was 'positive movement' and persuaded to extend the validity of its bid for the AS 550 C3 Fennec by six months. That bid expires at the end of the month we're in. Again, no breaths held.


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