For Eurocopter, it's not quite a nightmare deja vu. It's actually a lot worse. With India's $750-million light reconnaissance & surveillance helicopter (RSH) acquisition in a graveyard spin
, the company is rapidly losing patience -- and hope -- of a recovery. There couldn't possibly be a worse situation for a firm that already saw a programme abort
in December 2007 during the first iteration of the acquisition, an effort that imploded following allegations by Bell Helicopter that Eurocopter had failed to comply with trial specifications. This time around, already delayed inordinately, the acquisition has been specifically stalled following the discovery of certain information as part of the Finmeccanica investigations, which suggested that a serving Indian Army officer had offered to rig field evaluation trials in the acquisition to favour AgustaWestland -- the officer is currently under investigation in India. It is all but official, though, that the deal will never get back on track, and is more likely to die a quiet death. Eurocopter's consternation is clear.
Livefist has exclusive access to a recent letter written (see right) by Eurocopter's VP Sales & Customer Relations for India & South Asia, Rainer Farid, to India's Director General (Acquisitions), in which he writes, "It is particularly disturbing that there seem to be certain groups with vested interests who are continuously trying to derail the procurement process, by resorting to incorrect complaints regarding the conduct of field trials and technical evaluation results."
The timeline of this protracted and crucial programme is as follows:
- July 2008: Indian MoD issues RfP to global vendors -- this is the second RfP after the first competition was scrapped following certain deviations by contenders.
- Dec 2008: Technical and commercial offers submitted by contenders.
- Nov 2009: MoD calls for field evaluation trials.
- Jan 2010: Field evaluation trials commence - Winter trials in desert & high altitude in Phase 1 during Jan-Feb 2010, Maintainability evaluation trials in Phase 2 during March 2010, Evaluation trials in deserts and high altitude in Phase 3 during May-Jun 2010 and finally, Role and mission systems trials in Russia and France during Phase 4 in Jan 2011.
- Jan 2011: Army and IAF submit trial report to MoD.
- Feb-Dec 2011: General staff evaluation and vetting of the trial report submitted by the Army and IAF
- Jan 2012: MoD orders Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) to validate the General Staff Evaluation report
- April 2012: MoD orders Special Technical Oversight Committee (STOC) to validate the TOC report.
- June 2012: STOC submits its final report to the Defence Secretary.
Eurocopter had said it wouldn't extend the validity of its commercial bid beyond March 31, 2013, but finally did so, as the MoD required, till December 31, 2013. Now they'll be wondering if that was even necessary. Kamov, which competes with its Ka-226T Sergei refused to comment officially, but an official with Russian Helicopter Co. did sound upbeat about the programme when I spoke to him a week ago.