Sikorsky To Formally Protest Indian VVIP Chopper Deal Loss

Sikorsky, whose S-92 Superhawk lost the lucrative Indian competition for 12 helicopters for executive transport of the country's leaders and visiting heads of state, has decided to renew its protest with the government. Last week, it was revealed that the government had decided to sign on the dotted line with AgustaWestland for the AW101. As if to push home its contention that this isn't over, Sikorsky sported a model S-92 in Indian colours at its stand during the recently concluded DefExpo 2010 in Delhi. I had a detailed chat with Sikorsky's Veep (Strategic Partnerships) Steve Estill and India head Air Vice Marshal AJS Walia to get a look at why the company is so vexed -- losses are, after all, part of the game are they not?

The thing that has Sikorsky really incensed is a Letter of Appeal that the company sent to the Defence Ministry last year asking why they hadn't received a debrief on certain "concessions" that were provided to each side during the evaluation of the technical bids. Subsequent letters of complaint sent to the MoD pointed out that "specific details of our proposal have clearly been leaked, word for word, to the press". The government sent Sikorsky a one-line reply summarily rejecting their appeal. Three more letters were subsequently sent to the Defence Ministry, virtually begging for a meeting to "set the record straight". When there was still no movement, Sikorsky cranked it up a notch. The company's attorneys sent a notice to the MoD, and this time the latter responded saying the evaluations had been conducted by the Indian Air Force, and that all decisions were based on the evaluations -- a generous response to a defence contractor if ever there was one; usually, they're either ignored or told to take a hike. At the same time, the MoD refused to grant the Sikorsky folks a meeting.

"More than curious, it's not the process. We respect the Defence Minister's proclamations on transparency, but we would appreciate our views being acted upon. We believe that inconsistencies have crept into the process, and that is unacceptable. Information about the AW101 being the frontrunner emerged even before the trials began on the S-92," Estill said.

If you ask me, Sikorsky doesn't have much of a case. They appear to be basing their protest on stuff that appeared in the press. If the MoD deigns to respond -- which it most probably won't -- it will easily contest that what appears in the free press of the country has nothing to do with government decisions. It's second contention that AgustaWestland was granted certain "concessions" in the evaluation could invite the question -- How the hell do you know? -- which is the last thing a vendor wants or needs, especially when he's got two other Indian helicopter competitions on his hands.

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