Decision on 197 light helicopters soon
By SP's Special Correspondent
Eurocopter AS550 Fennec
Kamov Ka-226 Sergei
July 16, 2012: Eurocopter is waiting with baited breath as the crucial 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter competition is headed towards a possible decision shortly. A special technical oversight committee (STOC) that had been set up by the Defence Ministry to scrutinize certain qualitative requirement waivers in the competition had been raised by a third party that was not part of the trials. It is understood that the STOC has recommended that the waivers are acceptable to both the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force, for whom the helicopters are intended.
The Eurocopter AS550 Fennec and Kamov Ka-226 Sergei are in close contention for the $750-million deal that will progressively replace Cheetah and Chetak fleets in the Army and IAF. For Eurocopter, the deal is a delicate one. In late 2007, after its Fennec was shortlisted for a contract, the deal was aborted at the last minute following allegations of divergence from laid down procurement norms. Another abort could prove disastrous for both the competitors as well as the armed forces, which desperately need light helicopters, especially for high altitude operations.