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Chopper deal: Def Min asks vendors to extend commercial offer

Russia's light multipurpose helicopter Ka-226 is one of the two contenders for the deal. A Kamov photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): In view of delays in the tender to procure 197 light helicopters, Indian Defence Ministry has asked the two vendors in the race for the multi-billion dollar deal to extend the validity of their commercial offer.

"One of the firms, Europe's Eurocopter has told the Ministry that "in absence of any visibility regarding the finalisation of the case, we are unable to grant a further extension to our commercial offer'," defence sources told PTI.

The other company in the over 48-month-old tender is Russia's Kamov, which is offering its Ka-226 Sergei choppers.

The 197 light helicopters are being procured for the Army and the IAF to replace their fleet of vintage Cheetah/Chetak fleet of choppers, which are critical for providing supplies to troops deployed in Siachen Glacier and other high altitude areas.

"In a letter written to Director General (Acquisition) S B Agnihotri, Eurocopter has said it 'shares concern regarding the delay of the on-going procurement case considering the importance of this programme for the Indian armed forces'," they said.

The field evaluation trials have been concluded at the end of 2010 but there is no indication concerning the start of the commercial negotiations which has become a serious concern for them, the European company has told the ministry.

The Eurocopter has sought a "clarification from the Defence Ministry regarding the expected time frame of this procurement programme," the sources said.

The trials of the two helicopters in the race were completed in December 2010. Army Aviation Corps had submitted trial reports to the Defence Ministry after the trials.

The project has been delayed by more than five years as the earlier tender had to be cancelled at the last moment in 2007 after a five-year process.

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