he French helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter has complained to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) about the delay in the commencement of the price negotiation process in the 197-helicopter deal for the Indian Army.
In a deal worth Rs 3000 cr, 197 reconnaissance and surveillance utility helicopters are supposed to replace the 1970s vintage Chetaks and Cheetahs. The two contenders in the fray are the Russian Kamov Ka-226T Sergei and the French Eurocopter AS 550 C3 Fennec. In February this year after the controversy of kickbacks broke out in the 12 VVIP Agusta helicopter deal, the MoD has been treading cautiously on all defence deals.
In a letter dated 11 March 2013, addressed to MoD's Joint Secretary and Acquisition Manager Land Systems, Eurocopter writes about interacting with Indian officials at Aero India-2013 in February in Bangalore. Eurocopter says that assurances were given that the CNC (commercial negotiation committee) would begin soon, but there have been no movements on the same. "The procurement procedure has been conducted in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure, and no formal inquiry has been instituted in the case of procurement of the 197 light utility helicopters," says the letter.
"You may recall that this is the second time that Fennec AS 550 C3 has successfully met all the technical parameters of the RFP (tender), having already been selected in 2007," the letter adds.
On 31 March 2013, the commercial bids made by the bidders expired and French Eurocopter was reluctant to extend the bid any further if the price negotiations did not begin by then. But it extended its bid nonetheless.
However, in a letter dated 3 April 2013 to the DG Acquisition, Eurocopter says that the expiry of the commercial bid on 31 March was a matter of serious concern: "Since issue of the current RFP (tender) till date, a total period of four years has elapsed and the validity of the commercial quotes have already been extended six times. In this context we kindly request the Ministry of Defence to give us a clear indication about the commencement of CNC proceedings as laid down in DPP (Defence Procurement Procedure)."
The two letters also talk about the Fennec helicopter undergoing extensive field evaluation trials and demonstrating full compliance with the requirements of the tender.
Eurocopter also blames certain vested interests who are continuously trying to "derail the procurement process by resorting to incorrect complaints about field trials and technical evaluation results".
On 6 March 2013 Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in Parliament that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) would consider the proposal to acquire the 197 light utility helicopters, thereby making it clear that the deal had not been cancelled.