Allegations of corruption have clouded a recent decision by the Philippines to select the MD Helicopters MG530F for an air force requirement for six attack helicopters, with an investigation committee to announce its findings by the end of this month.

Poland's PZL-Swidnik, which had offered its Kania design, wrote to Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last month saying the MG530F had won despite shortcomings in MDHI's bid.

At the heart of the issue is a requirement for the selected helicopter to have a payload of at least 1,360kg (3,000lb). Although the Kania fulfils that, the MG530F - a military version of the MD530F - has a payload of only about 680kg.

"We were ordered to look into complaints that certain rules in the bidding procedures were ignored to favour one bidder over the others," says Ariston delos Reyes, an undersecretary at the Philippines Department of Defence who is leading the investigation. His committee is expected to complete its investigations by 21 January.

"We are looking into possible corruption in the tender. We definitely do not want a helicopter that does not fulfil our requirements," says the defence ministry. If irregularities are found, a fresh tender will be called in the second quarter of 2008, delaying deliveries planned from late this year by six months.

The defence ministry says the MG520, which is already in air force use, was used in the trials. "The selection committee's members, comprising both DoD and air force officials, then extrapolated that the MG530 should have a higher payload," it adds. "It is not clear how they arrived at that conclusion."

The Philippines has allocated 1.2 billion pesos ($30 million) for the six-aircraft deal. It also hopes to secure funding to buy up to 12 more helicopters in a follow-on procurement that could start in 2009 as part of a 7 billion pesos plan to refresh the air force fleet. The service's primary helicopter fleet comprises Vietnam War-era Bell UH-1H Hueys and MG520s.


Source: Flight International