India's tragicomic efforts to buy new light reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters (RSH) for the Indian Army and IAF, aborted last year for the second time in over a decade, has officially begun again. With the deadline for interest ending on March 31, five platforms will now prospectively compete for an unspecified (but known to be nearly 400) number of helicopters, all of which will have to be made in India by a winning Indian partner.
Livefist can confirm that the MoD has received more than ten responses to its request for information that expired on March 31. And yes, that's multiple bids per platform on five different helicopters, as follows in no particular order:
- Airbus AS550 C3 Fennec
- Kamov Ka-226T Sergei
- Bell 407GT
- AgustaWestland AW119
- HAL Light Utility Helicopter
An RfP to kickstart the contest is expected to be out later this year. Two rounds of Q&A between MoD/Army/IAF acquisition managers between October 2014 and March 2015 have narrowed down the broad requirements (and several prevailing blanks) in the RFI. The RfP will, hopefully, hammer things down further. Several points of interest in the composition of the new competition:
- Bell Helicopter returns to the contest after sitting out the last attempt (they decided not to bid then because of the offsets requirements).
- AgustaWestland has responses in through two Indian firms for the militarised AW119 Koala.
- HAL has also expressed interest in the contest. With its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) expected to make its first flight in August, the company has decided to throw its hat in the ring for good measure.
This hardly needs saying anymore on Indian helo procurement: Expect a lot of downwash before things really get going.