Eurocopter, now officially Airbus Helicopters, has in the past struggled to gain a foothold in the Indian military helicopter market. The company has lost out on various tenders for a horde reasons including high price tags on its choppers.
With its newly adopted name, the company hopes to bolster a “strong foundation in innovation, quality and industrial excellence,” Guillaume Faury, president of Airbus Helicopters has been quoted as saying.
In India, Eurocopter has lost several contracts to competitors in the past few years. In 2008, India issued an RFP to acquire 22 attack helicopters to which Eurocopter, AgustaWestland and Russian Helicopters responded. A year later India withdrew the tender explaining that the three bidders failed to meet the Indian air force’s requirements.
The cancellation came as a blow to Eurocopter which the previous year had lost a $1 billion deal for 197 AS550 Fennec light utility helicopters due to faults in India's selection process.
Eurocopter cried foul when the deal was cancelled and said, "Pressure was brought to scrap the deal," which it says it won in a fair competition by putting their flying machines through a rigorous trial in the icy heights of Siachen and the Thar desert.
"The helicopter presented during trials is identical to the one proposed to the Indian army. Technical offers were duly evaluated by a committee comprising army and ministry of defence officials," the company said.
In 2008, the Indian navy issued an RFP for the procurement of 197 utility helicopters - of which 133 are for the Army and 64 for the Air Force. While the competition for this tender is still on-going, Eurocopter in 2013 said that it plans to set up a production line in India to make its Fennec helicopters.
“The factory would produce between 25 and 50 helicopters a year, depending on the size of the contract”, Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling said at Aero India 2013. He also added the company was in talks with several local companies to set up the production line.
In 2011, the Indian Coast Guard issued a global tender worth $200 million to procure 16 light helicopters to be deployed on its warships for preventing any 26/11 type attack. The RFP has been sent to three companies - Eurocopter, AgustaWestland and Sikorsky. Eurocopter is planning to field its twin-engined Panther helicopter.
According to the RFP, the Coast Guard wants these choppers to be equipped with surveillance devices to carry out search and rescue roles in coastal areas, they said.
In 2012, Eurocopter responded to an RFP issued by the Indian Navy for 56 light utility helicopters to replace its fleet of Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Chetak. Several major helicopter-makers including AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and Russian Helicopters responded to the tender. The competition for this tender is still on-going.
But despite several competitions in progress, will there be light at the end of the tunnel for Airbus Helicopters?