The Indian government has informed parliament that its finance ministry has not raised objections regarding the trial process for selection of 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters for the country's armed forces.
India is in the tendering process to buy 197 of these helicopters, apart from 187 light utility helicopters to be designed and developed by the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for both the army and the air force.
The light utility chopper is under design and development phase, while the reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters purchase is at an advanced stage of selection of the winner.
These helicopters are needed for replacing the fleet of 75 1970-vintage Cheetah and Chetak helicopters that the army and air force fly now.
"The finance department has not raised objections regarding the trial process for selection," Defence Minister AK Antony said.
To another question, Antony also assured that complete transparency will be maintained in the on-going procurement process for 197 helicopters.
Noting that an earlier tendering process for the same helicopters was completed and the European manufacturer Eurocopter was selected as the winner, Antony said that tender had to be cancelled after there were anomalies in the trials.
"There was a proposal by the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force to procure 197 helicopters from Eurocopter. It was in final stages and the contract was about to be signed. We received some complaints of malpractices in trials," he said.
Antony maintained that he immediately ordered an inquiry and found there was truth in the complaints. "Eurocopter contract was cancelled immediately," he said.
Subsequently, a new tender (Request for Proposals or RFP in Defence parlance) for 197 helicopters was issued.
"When the process was in final stages, again we got a series of complaints from members of parliament. We decided to appoint a Special Technical Oversight Committee," he added.
"After going through everything, if anything goes wrong, we will again cancel it (the tender)," Antony warned.
While the first LUH tender was issued in 2003, it had to be cancelled in December 2007. The tender for the 197 helicopters (64 for the IAF and 133 for the army) was reissued in July 2008, for which Eurocopter's AS550-C3 Fennec and Russian manufacturer Kamov's Ka-226 are in the race. The deal is expected to be worth nearly $3 billion.