On October 29, the Indian MoD's Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) will deliberate over how to proceed on the reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter (RSH) competition, which looks to contract for 197 light helicopters (133 for the Army and 64 for the IAF).
As with all Indian military acquisitions, there have been allegations and complaints during the final leg of the evaluation process, seen to have delayed it thus far. Earlier this year, Eurocopter (which unconfirmed reports suggest emerged on top in field evaluation tests with the AS550 C3 Fennec -- and was in fact the winner in the programme's first abortive effort) had even written to
then Indian Army chief Gen VK Singh asking about the delay in a decision.
can confirm that both the Fennec and its competitor, the Russian Kamov Ka-226T have technical deviations at various levels, though the precise details of those deviations
remain various, with several reports suggesting specific parameters
. What is sure is that a Technical Oversight Committee has studied the deviations and made certain recommendations to the MoD. It is understood that decisions on those recommendations will take place at the DAC meeting on Monday.
Yet another, deeply unsavoury tinge to the competition has come in via investigations into a competitor that was eliminated from the reckoning in 2010 -- AgustaWestland. Italian investigators have discovered documents which detail a purported offer from an Indian Army officer to rig trials in the competition to favour a vendor in exchange for percentage commissions (see previous post below). The memorandum by an AgustaWestland consultant details information purportedly provided by the Indian Army officer, presumably as a "taste" as an enticement to future services -- information that pertains to alleged deviations in the competing helicopters. This document, now part of a dossier submitted in an Italian court and part of investigations into the company's dealings, notes the following as information supplied by the Indian Army officer:
The Indian MoD has acknowledged reports on this (and other) documents and yesterday announced that it had asked the Italian government to act quickly
to supply all information pertaining to the Indian deals, including the names of Indian nationals that have cropped up in some of the documents.
The question now is this: what will the DAC decide on Monday? It's a precarious time, and these are helicopters the Indian Army and IAF desperately need for high-altitude operations. Will this be a routine meeting to move ahead with the deal, or is the entire process now in danger? For the second time.