FALLOUT IN RE-TENDERING OF INDIAN HELICOPTER DEAL
By Bulbul Singh
10 Dec 07. Fallout of re-tending of $600m India’s helicopter deal
India’s decision to re-tender the $600m copter deal in which EADS had been short -listed against Bell Helicopters of United States can force France to stop co-operation in several of India’s critical technologies programs. A senior Defence Research and Development Organization [DRDO] scientist said, ‘They apprehend that France will stop supply of critical technologies in some of the hi-tech defence programs under development by DRDO in which France is collaborating after EADS was rejected after being short-listed in the helicopter deal.
The DRDO scientist said, ‘France can stop the delivery of Seeker Head technology which is the key component in the development of India’s anti-tank missile, NAG. Sources in the Indian Defence Ministry said, France has been sending feelers of annoyance ever since the Indian government decided to set up an enquiry in the helicopter deal on the complaint of Bell Helicopters who were second in the race for the deal.
The Indian government had conveyed to EADS in March 2007 that they have been short-listed in the helicopters deal after technical trials and other procedures. Bell Helicopters however immediately complaint to the Indian defence ministry that there were issues of transparency involved in the procurement and took up the matter at the diplomatic level. Sources in the Indian defence ministry said, that the EADS issue was even taken at the diplomatic level.
Germany’s offer of hi-tech weaponry to India was revived during this month’s visit of German Chancellor Ms. Angela Merkel to New Delhi. The German Chancellor was accompanied by half a dozen top officials of German defence companies including CEOs of Eurocopter during four day visit to India in late October 2007. Sources in the Indian defence ministry disclosed that the Eurocopter chief was not given a formal interview on the matter with the Permanent Secretary in the Indian defence ministry, Vijay Singh.
Both France and Germany have a stake in EADS and sources in the Indian defence ministry also apprehended that several key defence projects could be hit in case the governments of France and Germany retort back over India’s decision.
India is also developing the Astra Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile, at DRDO with several key components being supplied by Thales and MBDA of France for its successful development. A DRDO delegation recently visited France at Thales facilities for procurement of seeker head technology. Besides, the team also visited MBDA to seek technical support to fine-tune the indigenous guided control system for the Astra missile. Sources in DRDO said they apprehend that after the helicopter decision, that they will not be able to get seeker head technology and other help from the French companies.
Another ambitious project which is being developed with the help of France is the Maitri low-level Quick Reaction Missile System to replace the homegrown Trishul Quick Reaction Missile System which has not been able to take off despite 20 years of development.