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By Bulbul Singh

08 Mar 13. India is unlikely to blacklist Finmeccanica, which has been recently hit by a scandal recently for alleged kickbacks in the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters worth $720 million contracted with AgustaWestland in 2010 by the Indian Air Force. While the Ministry of Defence has slapped a ‘show cause’ notice on AgustaWestland U.K. with which the contract was signed, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has begun formal probe into the contract.

Despite all the noise, Indian defence ministry is unlikely to blacklist Finmeccanica as senior serving officers of the Indian Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force have told the Indian defence ministry officials that blacklisting will only hurt the defence preparedness of the country.

“The business prospects of Finmeccanica doing business in India will not be affected,” said one official of the Indian defence ministry.

An Indian Navy official said they are dependent on several products supplied by Finmeccanica and are happy with the performance of the equipment bought.

Wass, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica is currently upgrading India’s A 244 lightweight torpedoes and the Italian company has offered its Black Shark torpedoes. The torpedoes marked A244S are now being upgraded to MOD 3 which will also extend the life of the torpedoes by another 20years. The torpedoes will be fitted with new Fire Control System and will enhance the range of these torpedoes, increase their speed and also improve their target detection & Acoustic Counter Counter Measure (ACCM). The Indian Navy uses both Western and Russian built LWT (Light Weight Torpedoes) in its submarines and ships, while the Whitehead A244 is used by the Indian Navy an Air Launched variant of A244 is used by Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft.

Sources in the Indian Navy said, “Finmeccanica has even offered to participate in the joint development of ongoing torpedo programs of the Defence Research and Development Organization, (DRDO), a proposal which has not been shelved,” added the source.

Selex of Italy, another subsidiary of Finmeccanica has been awarded a contract for supplying an advanced 3D Band Air Surveillance Radar for Indian Navy’s homegrown aircraft carrier being built at Cochin Shipyard Limited.

An Indian Navy official said, any move to blacklist Finmeccanica will adversely hit India’s aircraft carrier program which is already delayed by over four years. The 3D radar is a long range early warning radar with fully solid state active phased array antenna able to assure the detection of aircrafts up to 400 kilometres claimed the Indian Navy official.

The Indian Navy is contemplating additional purchase of Mine Warfare Data Centre Systems it had contracted in 2009 for $25 million. The Mine Warfare Data Centre are used to undertake collation, analysis, classification and archiving of data in different formats of the Indian Navy.

While the AgustaWestland scandal is becoming politically sensitive, ahead of the general elections in 2014, sources in the Indian defence ministry said, given the pressure from serving Officers, no defence company will be blacklisted though a contract can be terminated in case enough evidence is found by the investigating agencies. India had earlier blacklisted Denel of South Africa, Singapore Technologies, IMI of Israel, Rheinmetall of Zurich. The blacklisted has adversely affected several weapon projects especially the artillery purchase program of 155mm/52 calibre guns and the blacklisting of IMI has led to shortages of variety of ammunition for the Indian Army. Ends

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