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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

India plans to buy over 380 light helicopters for Armed Forces

RIA Novosti

11/04/2008 12:17 NEW DELHI, April 11 (RIA Novosti) - India will soon announce a new global tender for 384 light helicopters to boost the combat capabilities of its Armed Forces, a national newspaper said on Friday.

India's Defense Acquisitions Council chaired by Defense Minister A K Antony has approved the proposed purchase as part of the joint Army-Air Force "light helicopter" project, worth an estimated $2 billion, the Times of India reported.

The paper said the entire selection process, "including field trials, technical and commercial negotiations will take at least two-three years before the final contract is inked."

The previous tender, estimated at $600 million, which was won by Eurocopter, was annulled last December over "deviations from specifications."

According to some reports, the principal bidders in the new tender will be Eurocopter, the U.S.'s Bell, Italian Augusta Westland and Russia's Kamov.

The Indian Army will receive 259 helicopters, and the Air Force - 125.

"These choppers are being inducted to enhance the operational capability of the Armed Forces in the high Himalayan frontiers," the paper quoted Defense Secretary Vijay Singh as saying.

Around 250 helicopters are currently in service in the Indian Army, mainly obsolete Cheetah attack helicopters and Chetak multi-purpose helicopters, as well as domestically manufactured Advanced Light helicopters.

However, India intends to modernize and increase its fleet of attack and other types of helicopters to 695 by 2020.

According to Times of India, these will include 384 light, 80 medium-lift, 22 attack, and 16 anti-submarine warfare, purchased from foreign manufacturers, while another 166 will be the indigenous Dhruv advanced light helicopters.

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