India soon to invite bids for purchase of 312 choppers

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New Delhi, Apr 9 (UNI) India will soon invite international bids for the purchase of 312 light helicopters in an effort to give its armed forces capability of rapid deployment and also for logistics support on world's highest battlefield Siachen glacier.

The tenders for these choppers -- 197 for the Army Aviation Corps and 115 for the Indian Air Force (IAF), would be floated in the next few days.

The helicopters are estimated to be worth more than two billion dollars.

''The helicopters are being purchased to enhance the operational capability of the armed forces in the high Himalayan frontiers,'' Defence Secretary Vijay Singh told journalists here.

Defence sources said the new choppers were being inducted to replace the IAF's and the Army's ageing fleet of French-acquired Chetak and Cheetah helicopters which have been operating for more than three decades now.

India had earlier floated multi-billion dollar global tenders for buying long-range artillery guns.

The main bidders for these tenders were expected to be Textron-based American helicopter major Bell, European arms major European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), Russia's Kamov and Italian Augusta Westland.

These four helicopter manufacturers were also the bidders in the Indian Army's proposal for 197 helicopters.

However, the deal was cancelled at the last moment after the government said rules of procurement had been flouted by a bidder.

At the time of cancellation of the deal, officials were engaged in price negotiation.

Initially, the combined Army and IAF tenders were to be floated in the first week of this month, but got delayed as the air force was late in firming up its requirements, the sources added.

UNI AG BDP AS1919

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