The long awaited opening of the commercial bids for the 15 heavy-lift helicopter for Indian Air Force (IAF) has taken place and US firm Boeing’s Chinook helicopter has emerged as the lowest bidder in the race. Boeing’s Chinook has emerged as the winner over the Russian Mi-26 helicopter since it turned out to be more cost-effective for India.
According to Defence Ministry, Boeing’s Chinook and Russian Mi-26 had both passed the extensive field trials held earlier but Boeing’s Chinook turned out to be lower in terms of its acquisition and life-cycle costs. Now that the L-1 or the lowest bidder has been determined, the helicopter deal will head towards the contract negotiation committee for the finalization of the deal.
Boeing’s Chinook CH-47F helicopter turned out to be not only cheaper but very different from its Russian rival Mi-26. The Chinook helicopter uses a tandem rotor layout compared with the Mi-26's conventional helicopter layout with a main and tail rotor. While the Russian Mi-26 was larger with a maximum take-off weight of 56,000kg, the US-made Chinook 's maximum gross weight was about 22,668kg.
The US-made Chinook copter can be used for heavy-lift assault, troop movement, logistics support, aerial battlefield recovery and special operations. It is also capable of being refueled mid-air for extended range and can carry 55 combat-ready troops or over 11,100 kg of logistical supplies or weight. The Chinook can also be transported in the hold of the C-17 Globemaster III of which India has ordered 10 aircraft. Boeing had indicated that this greatly enhances the CH-47F's ability to be deployed to distant locations.
According to Defence experts, Boeing’s Chinook helicopter winning the race for the heavy-lift copters can be a good sign for the IAF largely because of the reliability and the secured spare supply it can offer besides the economical price. As for Russia, it does not a have good track-record in the recent times in terms of spares and supply.
Interestingly, this is the second time this year that the American helicopters have been chosen over the Russian ones. India is all set to order 22 heavy-duty Apache attack helicopters for around $ 1.4 billion from the US as it met all air staff qualitative requirements during the field trials conducted by the IAF. As for its rival, the Russian Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant's Mi-28 Havoc did not fare well and was deemed unsatisfactory.
Meanwhile, the current tilt towards the US for military deals may upset Russia’s role as India’s top Defence supplier. India has placed several large defense orders with the United States this year including a $ 4.1 billion contract for 10 Boeing C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlifters, $ 2.1 billion for eight P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and $ 962 million for six C-130J transport aircraft.