Just spoke to officials at both Eurocopter and Russian Helicopter Co at Aero India. Both, as you might imagine, are befuddled. Both say they have reason to believe the competition is still open and is very much still on. Brave face? Well, here’s what officials at Eurocopter told me. Their CEO Lutz Bertling, who visited the show this year, met with India’s DG Acquisition, who assured him that the “process was still on”. Bertling is understood to have communicated to the Indian official that the commercial bids expired in March 2013.
A meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) next week is expected to take up the issue and make a firm decision on where the programme goes.
In December last year, the MoD had asked Eurocopter and RusHeliCo to extend the validity of their bids for 12 months till December 2013. Eurocopter agreed to extend the validity of its commercial bid until March 2013 only, saying that it would not agree to 12 months without “clear visibility” on a decision. Eurocopter officials also confirmed to me in no uncertain terms that they would not agree to an extension of bid validity beyond March 2013 without visibility on where the programme is headed.
The Eurocopter CEO, incidentally, also had a one-on-one discussion with India’s junior minister for defence Jitender Singh, who also communicated that a decision would be taken at the DAC next week. Bertling also met the Indian Army’s Deputy Chief Lt Gen Narinder Singh, who communicated that investigations into certain allegations pertaining to the involvement of a serving Army officer in malfeasance had been completed, and that the same would be reported to the DAC next week.
Officials at RusHeliCo refused to discuss the programme, but told me that they had no reason to believe that the programme would be scrapped. “There are vested interests trying to destroy the programme because we are expected to win,” one Rosoboronexport official said, but wouldn’t go into specifics.