Coast Guard chopper tender aborted

By SP's Special Correspondent
Photo Credit: DPR Defence

October 01, 2012: The Indian Coast Guard's much needed new-build helicopter fleet will have to wait, with a three-year effort to procure 16 light helicopters for shipborne maritime surveillance coming to naught. Reports suggest that a situation leaving HAL's Dhruv as the sole contender in the fray — not allowed as per Indian defence rules — has resulted in the abort. A new tender is expected to be floated by early 2013, possibly with reworked parameters. Eurocopter's AS565 MB Panther competed with HAL's Dhruv in the Coast Guard competition.

It is not yet clear why a single vendor situation arose. The programme abort comes shortly after the Indian Navy floated its new naval utility helicopter (NUH) requirement in September — a competition in which the Panther is expected to square off with at least four other contenders to replace the Navy's Chetaks. The Dhruv is not expected to contend for a Navy order considering that the Naval Dhruv has already been rejected in its current configuration for any more numbers. Sources say that the MoD will definitely consider the option of merging the NUH and Coast Guard requirements into a single amalgamated tender.