R.I.P India’s 197 Copter Deal: Magazine Report

The 197 reconnaissance and helicopter surveillance helicopter deal won’t go through, says a new magazine report. Chopped For A Second Time happens to be the headline of the report by my network colleague INDIA TODAY deputy editor Sandeep Unnithan in the latest issue of the magazine (first flagged online here). Unnithan reports that there may not be a formal cancellation, but that the deal simply won’t be allowed to go through.
This is going to come as a sledgehammer blow to both Eurocopter and Russian Helicopter Co, that have waited over two years since field evaluations for guidance on a result. Worse still, this is a nightmare situation for the Army and IAF which both desperately need light helicopters to replace their near obsolete Alouette-II/III (Cheetahs and Chetaks). What the IAF chief said at yesterday’s press conference now has meaning.

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.

9 thoughts on “R.I.P India’s 197 Copter Deal: Magazine Report”

  1. This is good.what is status of hal luh? India should now focus on HAL LUH and buy 400 of them instead of 187 initially ordered.HAL DRDO should make it a priority project and diliver at the earliest

  2. Seems logical that the competition has been called off. As the article that you have referenced states that both the helicopters failed to me end user requirements.

    What is baffling is the time delay. Probably a bunch of babus or babuclad army officers(yes there are many) were lobbying around to get the deal passed for personal gain. In this case it is a late but welcomed decision.

    But on the other hand, reasons stated to nullify the competition seem unsatisfactory(i am no expert, but then ..rejecting eurocopter all for the lack of buldgin doors)

    India has certain requirements, if the inhouse and outhouse products don't meet them, that doesn't mean that we can cross a leg and buy whatever if offered.

  3. This was about to happen. With HAL moving forward with ALH Dhruv, Light Combat Helicopter, & finally delivered Dhruv Rudra, & finally getting ready with Light Utility Helicopter, it seems like DRDO/ HAL is on the track to build & deliver a serious contender to Eurocopter & will finally applicable to clinch the deal.

  4. First we need to speed up the process, it is taking too much time. Starting the competition agin is just killing time and money , just re-evaluate, where it went wrong. Corruption is dragging our country down.

  5. This is just screwed-up. If we have no firm intent to buy, then why do we invite bids and waste our time as well as that of the bidders? If the products do not meet our requirements, why does it take so long to let them know and put an end to it? And, why would we want to extend the expiration date when the product does not meet our requirements? The EC chief not willing to go beyond Mar 2013 without a firm direction on where this is headed, is I think reasonable thing to ask for. Why should they waste their time when MOD does not have any idea on what they want to do, and especially when they have a history of indecision and bid cancellations. Look at the MMRCA, we seem to have awarded the deal to the French, but we are still in negotiations and probably will be for another half a decade. This is just plain pathetic. I am not saying that we should blindly import, but if we need to import because the locally made product cannot be ready in time, or just not an option, then just go ahead an do it. If we have requirements that cannot be met by any biddger, then I think we may be asking for too much. If we want a TATA Nano with a BMW like handling, and at a price that is below that of a used Maruti 800, then there is something wrong with this bid template. I am not suggesting that this is the case, but if all the rumours we hear are even partially true, then we do have a problem within that needs to be addressed first. We seem to have not learned our lesson after decades of importing and that doesn't seem to be bothering anyone.

  6. This is the most SANE decision ever. We should replace the LUH by drones and use Dhruv for rest of the missions.
    LUH made sense as no other copter could ferry replenishments to say Siachen. Dhruv does the job so why buy another piece of equipment.
    This releases money for more drones…

  7. Excellent decision … finally somebody has the balls …

    For all you naysayers ….. The MOD has chosen this path because they want private players ( more IMP-ly PVT MONEY ) in the program , with Light Utility heli have various civilian roles…and with most of India's civilian market buying over priced heli s from euro-copter ( we are 3 rd biggest market ) and also with Tata manufacturing S-92 Cabins and precision parts , WHY NOT TAG ALONG PVT INDUSTRY FOR DUAL-USE ??.



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