Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
March 19, 2010
NEW DELHI — Sikorsky Aircraft says the procurement process for the 12-aircraft VIP helicopter program recently nabbed by AgustaWestland lacked transparency, and that Sikorsky’s proposal offered the best value.
The Indian defense ministry just signed a deal for 12 AW101 helicopters for the high-profile Air Force Communications squadron. According to an official who was not willing to be named, Sikorsky’s S-92 cost $50 million apiece against the AW101’s $75 million.
“We are very disappointed and have made our intentions known,” says another participant in the competition. It is believed that the U.S. ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, also has expressed dissatisfaction to authorities here.
Sikorsky’s complaint against the three-engined AW101 is that “apples should be compared with apples,” and no 101 is being used to ferry high-level VIPs, like heads of state.
A 101 design was at the heart of the erstwhile VH-71 presidential helicopter replacement program in the U.S., but the Pentagon has entirely restarted that effort after a five-year ordeal that began with a Lockheed-Sikorsky showdown and ended with an historic race for the White House.
An AgustaWestland executive refuted the Sikorsky claim. “AW101 has been used in Japan to transport the empress and in Latvia to transport heads of state,” the executive says. AgustaWestland says it won the competition because it married three powerful engines with safety and has 30 percent extra space, state-of-art technology and a proven operational record around the world.
“It has performed well in Iraq and Afghanistan,” an AgustaWestland spokesman says, referring to European Merlins.
The executive added that India would benefit from new technology, increased payload and a maximum takeoff weight.
Meanwhile, Sikorsky and AgustaWestland are splitting in other ways, too. Earlier, AgustaWestland had signed with the Tata Group to build a final assembly line in Hyderabad for the AW119 helicopter (Aerospace DAILY, Feb 17).
Aviation Week has learned that AgustaWestland will now move to another location in the city, possibly the Hyderabad Aerospace Park, owned by the GMR Hyderabad International Airport.
Since Sikorsky had signed a joint venture agreement with Tata Advanced Systems for manufacturing aerospace components and S-92 cabins at its facility in Hyderabad as well, the two rivals were to be located at facilities adjoining each other on Tata premises until this decision.
- Neelam Mathews (email@example.com