India taps CH-47F as final contender in heavy lift deal

New Delhi
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The Boeing CH-47F Chinook helicopter has emerged as the final candidate in India's competition for 15 heavy lift helicopters.

"In the proposal initiated by [the] Indian air force for [the] procurement of 15 heavy lift helicopters, Boeing with the Chinook helicopter has emerged as the L1 vendor," said Indian defence minister AK Antony in a written reply to a question in parliament.

"The cost of the contract would depend upon outcome of the contract negotiation with the L1 Vendor, which has not yet concluded."

The Chinook's rival in the competition was Russia's Mil Mi-26 helicopter.

Antony's comments were said to be prompted by a press release last week by Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, which stated that the Mi-26 was still in contention for the requirement.

"L1 vendor status" allows Boeing to conduct final negotiations for the deal with India's Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC). A CNC consists of a defence programme's key stakeholders.

In addition, India's air force chief air marshal NAK Browne has said the country would buy 22 Boeing AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, although this deal has yet to be confirmed.

An industry source says the Apache's rival in the competition, the Mil Mi-28, withdrew from the competition after failing to meet several key requirements during the 2011 flight trials.

The CH-47F and Mi-26 are radically different helicopters. The Chinook uses a tandem rotor layout, compared with the Mi-26's conventional helicopter layout with a main and tail rotor.

The Mi-26 is much larger, with a maximum take-off weight of 56,000kg (123,000lb), compared with the Chinook's maximum gross weight of 22,668kg.

The Chinook, however, can be transported in the hold of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, of which India has ordered 10 examples. Boeing says this greatly enhances the CH-47F's ability to be deployed to distant locations.

It notes that the CH-47F used in the India flight trials flew into India aboard a C-17 and was able to perform a flight just hours after its arrival.