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India withdraws attack helicopter request for proposals

India has withdrawn a request for proposals issued last year for the acquisition of 22 attack helicopters, announcing that remaining bidders AgustaWestland, Eurocopter and Mil have failed to meet the requirements outlined by its air force.

Industry sources voiced fears over a possible collapse of the estimated $500 million contest during February's Aero India 2009 show in Bangalore, with the project having already been thrown into uncertainty following the withdrawal of Bell Helicopter and Boeing late last year.

The removal of the US companies' respective AH-1Z Super Cobra and AH-64D Apache Longbow products narrowed the field to the AgustaWestland AW129, Eurocopter Tiger and Mil Mi-28, with the latter being promoted by Russia's Rosoboronexport arms agency.

Cancellation of the current procurement process comes as a particular blow to Eurocopter, which had been hopeful of winning the contest, and also saw an expected deal for 197 AS550 Fennec light utility helicopters scrapped in 2007 due to faults in India's selection process.

India's defence ministry is expected to issue a fresh request for proposals for the attack helicopter acquisition.

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