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 Rs30 billion ($660 million).

Mil Mi-17-1V

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.

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.

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 fire-fighting duties.