Almost a year after field trials were completed,two contenders have been cleared for the final round of opening of commercial bids in the ongoing contract to replace ageing Cheetah helicopters for the Army and IAF.
The much delayed acquisition process,which first took off in 2005,will now enter its final phase and the Army will get choppers to replace the ageing Cheetah fleet that was acquired in the 1970s and is still being used to supply troops in mountain areas,including the Siachen glacier.
It is learnt that both Kamov 226 (Russian) and Eurocopter AS 550 Fennec (European consortium) have been cleared by the Defence Ministry on technical grounds. The two contenders will now shortly be called for the next and final step of opening of commercial bids.
Since both have been declared technically compliant to the requirements of the Army,the cheaper machine will be declared as the winner of the contract,the value of which would exceed US$1 billion. While the initial order would be for 197 helicopters,it is expected to go up to double the number in order to meet requirements of the Army,Air Force and Navy.
However,there is no clear indication yet on which helicopter will turn out to be cheaper. While Russian equipment is generally cheaper than European products,the Kamov is equipped with two engines against the single-engined Eurocopter,pushing up its cost significantly.
The procurement was delayed by several months due to various reasons.