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IAF grounds its AgustaWestland chopper fleet


AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopter.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Indian Air Force has grounded its fleet of three AW-101 helicopters built by Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland whose Rs 3,600 crore deal to supply 12 VVIP choppers was cancelled earlier this year following allegations of bribery and payment of kickbacks.

The firm had supplied three of the 12 choppers to the IAF when the allegations of corruption and payment of kickbacks in the deal emerged, following which the Defence Ministry had put agreement on hold.

"The fleet of these choppers is not flying for quite some time now as they are being preserved due to lack of spares," IAF spokesperson Gp Capt Gerard Galway said when asked about the reasons of grounding of these choppers.

The three choppers were part of IAF's VVIP squadron based at the Palam air base here, and even after the Government decided to put the deal on hold and later cancelled the contract, the IAF had continued training its pilots on these machines.

The IAF had put up the infrastructure and its pilots had also received training in the UK and were practising on the three choppers.

After scrapping the deal, India has encashed a guarantee of over Rs 2,200 crore deposited by AgustaWestland in banks in Delhi and Italy.

The IAF has plans of using the Russian-origin Mi-17 helicopters for ferrying VVIPs. The IAF, at present, uses the Mi-8 choppers for the task but these machines are planned to be phased out in near future.

Investigations were on by both the CBI and Italian authorities into the allegations of corruption and their outcome is still awaited.

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