Helicopter manufacturers are waiting for the Indian Ministry of Defense to issue a new tender after it scrapped a deal for 197 light Eurocopter Fennecs late last year. Before that, Eurocopter stood as the “preferred bidder” but the contract remained unsigned, awaiting the end of price discussions. It is still unclear whether only the two finalists have been asked to participate, but Bell expects to receive a new request for proposal (RFP) soon.
On February 17, the Times of India quoted Minister A.K. Antony saying no more middlemen will be allowed in this kind of negotiation. “The reason the Indian government gave us is ‘internal problems’ in the administration,” Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling said in January. The explanation differed somewhat from the “deviations from procurement procedures” quote the MoD gave to the aforementioned newspaper.
One possible reason frequently mentioned in the press centers on the fact that Eurocopter provided a civil EC 350 B3 Ecureuil instead of an EC 550 C3 Fennec for the tests. “Both Bell and Eurocopter sent civil versions. This was agreed in writing with the Indian government,” Bertling said.
Bell’s 407 model was rejected after tests showed it could not perform a special maneuver that is required to fly in areas like Kashmir, according to the Business Standard.
Under the scrapped deal, Eurocopter would have supplied 60 helicopters from its Marignane, France factory. The other 137 would have been manufactured in India as a result of technology transfer. Hindustan Aeronautics is already a supplier of Ecureuil/Fennec parts. The value of the scrapped deal is vaguely estimated between $500 million and $4 billion, depending on the sources.