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India begins procurement process for choppers

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A file photo of Chetak helicopter

NEW DELHI (PTI): After a delay of over six months, the procurement process for acquiring 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUV) for Army and Air Force is all set to begin with the winter trials starting from January 25 in Punjab.

The first phase of the over-a-year-long trials will be held at Bhatinda in Punjab and after that the contenders will be put to test in summer trials expected to be held in June.

Later, high altitude trials will be undertaken at Siachen, Defence Ministry officials said here.

Field trials for procuring these LUHs were earlier expected to start in June last year but the Defence Ministry missed the deadline in announcing the date for the summer evaluations resulting in a delay of over six months.

The process to replace the ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters for the armed forces has already been delayed by around six years as the previous tender was cancelled in 2007.

The previous contract was cancelled by the Ministry after it found that the chopper offered by Eurocopter for the field trials at that time was a civilian version whereas the company had offered a military version for the deal in its bid.

The chopper engine offered in the Eurocopter's bid was also different from the one fitted in the civilian version, which participated in the trials.

The present tender was released by the Defence Ministry in the last quarter of 2008 and the Request for Proposal (RFP) was sent to six companies including Eurocopter, Russian Mil and Kamov, American Sikorsky and Bell and Italian Agusta Westland.

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