With the suspension of the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal the status of the Indian Air Force’s VVIP chopper procurement has left contenders vying to fulfill India’s requirement.
Some reports say that the Indian Air Force now plans to use Russian Mi-17 helicopters that, ironically were dropped from competition in 2006, to ferry VVIPs. Rosoboronexport was eliminated because the company did not agree to sign the integrity clause with the IAF.
However, in 2008, India ordered 80 Mi-17 V5 transport helicopters from Russia worth $1.2 billion which are expected to be delivered this year with a follow-on clause to buy 59 additional helicopters worth $884 million.
While the IAF makes do with the Mi-17, the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey has gained considerable interest as a possible replacement to the as the AW101.
“The Bell Boeing team continues to field interest from various international governments and is poised to support the U.S. government in foreign military sales of the V-22 Osprey. Any sale of the Osprey for use by Indian military would result from a government to government transaction,” Bell-Boeing told Helihub.com.
India has already taken delivery of three AW101 choppers and is seeking repayments worth some $367 million. The fate of these helicopters remain unclear however, AgustaWestland has says that it remains “committed to working with the Government of India to resolve the issues, and is ready to perform the remaining obligations under the agreement.”
The firm will continue to support the three helicopters already delivered to and currently operated by the Indian Air Force, the statement added.
However, New Delhi has agreed to AgustaWestland's calls for arbitration last week. It will use this process as part of its push to get back the amount it has already paid, defence ministry officials were quoted as saying by Reuters.
"The government now wants to get back all our money by invoking the bank guarantee," a defence ministry official was quoted as saying. "This has to be returned."
In February last year, India froze payments for the helicopters and launched the official probe after Italian police arrested Giuseppe Orsi, Finmeccanica's then chairman and chief executive, for allegedly paying bribes to middlemen to secure the deal.
With the possibility of Bell-Boeing competiting against Russia a possibility should India re-open the VVIP helicopter tender it remains unclear if Sikorsky (which lost out to AgustaWestland) will participate.