The Indian air force is to purchase another 80 Mil Mi-17-1V multirole transport helicopters from Russia's Kazan under a deal worth an estimated Rp30 billion ($660 million). To be finalised within the next few months, the acquisition marks the first of several major rotorcraft procurements in the pipeline for the Indian defence ministry, writes Siva Govindasamy.

Indian air force chief of staff Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi expects the first new aircraft to be delivered in early 2007. "The Russians can be very fast in manufacturing equipment, and I expect them to supply the entire lot by 2008," he says. To replace the bulk of the air force's current Mi-8 inventory, the new aircraft will also strengthen its existing Mi-17-1V fleet, which comprises 37 aircraft, according to Flight's HeliCAS database.

Selected ahead of rival offers of the AgustaWestland EH101 and Eurocopter AS532 Cougar, the new Mi-17-1Vs will be used for troop transport and cargo tasks, medical evacuation and search-and-rescue missions and potentially firefighting duties. The aircraft could also be armed for combat operations, the defence ministry says.

New Delhi is, meanwhile, mulling over several additional helicopter requirements, including a recent air force tender to purchase another 12 new transport helicopters, including eight for VIP duties (Flight International, 17-23 October). A delayed platform selection is expected before year-end for a new army fleet of 197 light utility helicopters, with the Bell 407 and Eurocopter AS550 in contention. The Indian navy has also issued a tender for 16 anti-submarine warfare helicopters to replace its Westland Sea King 42s, and wants an additional six transport helicopters.

Source: Flight International