Plans to replace Cheetah & Chetak to get delayed

New Delhi: Plans to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak chopper fleet of the Army and Air Force are set to get delayed, thanks to indecision of the Defence Ministry over conducting of the field trials.

The original plan was to induct 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUHs) starting from 2009-10 but the process has not moved beyond the Request for Proposal stage and the vendors response to it.

The summer trials were planned to be held by June-July this year but they have not been held, resulting in delay of six months in the fresh acquisition process for the choppers.

Winter trials, whose deadline is February 15, 2010, are also unlikely to be held as no decision has yet been taken on the schedule, Army sources told news agencies here.

This is the second time the Rs 3,500 crore tender has been released for inducting 197 LUHs as the first acquisition process was cancelled in 2007 after it was found that Eurocopter had fielded a civilian variant of its chopper for the trials.

The cancellation of the previous process in 2007 had pushed back the deal by four years and the present delays in the field trials would mean that the choppers can start getting inducted only in 2013-14 given there are no further delays in the process, they said.

Bureau Report