Thursday, May 31, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Why the delay in the clearance of the 197 light helicopters? Is there another agenda?

Neelam Mathews
May 31, 2012

India is rightly earning the acronymn of “the master of delays.” The bid – the second time round after the first one in 2008- for procuring 197 light utility helicopters for the Indian Army and Air Force required the day before yesterday (!) though having cleared technical evaluation, is stuck at the staff evaluation stage for months, the clearance of which, keeps getting delayed, Aerospace Diary learns. 64 are for the IAF, and 133 are for the Army.

The next stage will be for it to go through the technical oversight committee to ensure nothing is missed out to be followed by other clearances till the commercial bids are even opened. All this time wasted has many in the business speculating whether the government really wants to make a decision between the two contenders- Eurocopter’s AS550 C3 Fennec and the Kamov Ka-226- at all.

With HAL developing the Light Utility Helicopter based on the single engined-ALH, and around 187 more light utility helicopters required for the two services which HAL has on its mandate to produce under license, it is now being debated whether even the 197 should be given to HAL.

Greed is a funny thing. It envelops those who suffer from it. While HAL has a better record in the arena of helicopters than fixed wing, there is doubt whether this project will move effortlessly. It has no engine of its own. “All they’ll do is put two of the Shakti engines they use on the ALH (single engine),” says a visibly miffed official.

Urgency is not a reality here. With the existing fleet the Cheetah and Cheetak needing replacement, it is strange that no one is taking any notice. Perhaps the exit of the present Army Chief will provide some respite to distraught officials?

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