US, Russia in race for IAF attack choppers deal
The US and Russia will face off for the deal to supply the Indian Air Force crucial attack choppers after two major competitors from Europe pulled out citing technical reasons. The mainstay attack helicopters of the two countries will arrive in India within two months and will be put through several rounds of gruelling tests.
What has left many surprised is that Eurocopter’s Tiger and Agusta’s A129 Mangusta have pulled out of the estimated $600 million contest and will not be coming for the field trials.
Sources said that Eurocopter decided not to take part months ago and did not respond to request for proposals issued by the IAF. Agusta, on the other hand, seems to have pulled out at the last minute after it assessed that the Mangusta would not be able to fulfill the requirements of the IAF field trials, which include hard landings in high-altitude areas.
The surprise exit of the two European choppers — considered to be highly competitive — will give an advantage to Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Longbow, which will compete with the Russian Mi 28 attack chopper.
Incidentally, the procurement process for the attack helicopters was cancelled last year after two American companies opted out of the competition saying they did not get adequate time to seek permission from Washington to take part in the tender. This had led to protests by other competitors, notably the Europeans, who complained that the competition was stalled to tilt it in the favour of the American companies.
In May last year, the tender was reissued — the first defence tender to be taken out by the re-elected UPA government.
“We hope to begin trials within the next 60 days. We are offering the latest version of the Apache, the AH-64 D Longbow, and are confident that it is well suited for Indian requirements,” Vivek Lall, Vice-President and Country Head, Boeing Defense Space & Security, told The Indian Express.
Russia is offering its latest-generation Mi 28 ‘Havoc’ helicopter, that was inducted by its armed forces in 2006.
While the first round of trials will take place in India, the IAF evaluation team will also travel to the US and Russia for a round of weapon trials.
The IAF is planning to initially procure 22 attack helicopters to replace its fleet of ageing Mi 35 attack choppers, which are nearing the end of their service life.
US, Russia in race for IAF attack choppers deal idrw.org