KUALA LUMPUR: As we wait for the Utility Helicopter Tender to close on Feb 8, one interesting news came out from New Delhi. The Indian Air Force last week conducted trials on the AW101 and the S92. The tender came out in 2006 for a fleet of medium lift and VVIP helicopters to replace the Mi-17s bought some 10 years ago (and here we are on the verge of purchasing Mi-17s for the army , but thats for another day of course).
Whats more interesting about the news story from India is that “The Indian Air Force will buy four $13 million, 30-passenger medium-lift helicopters, plus eight $25 million, 12-person VIP helicopters equipped with state-of-the-art, open-architecture gear for encrypted communications between the prime minister and the president.”.
The price quoted is low, very low. Will they got the orice? and more interestingly whether we will get the same price if the Indians got theirs. The AW101 is the early favourite, its three engines providing the capability to fly into “hot and high condition.
Anyway, with both helicopters finally in the region and most probably showing up in Singapore Aerospace (middle of next month) it will be a matter of note, if they will fly them over here just for a short trial. It may happen soon, even before the Singapore date unless both are disqualified from the tender, which is stupid of course.
I dont think the helicopters will come here before the Feb 8 deadline as the principal would like to find out first whether or not they are still in the running for the programme.
Even if the helicopters are flown here, I do not believe we are set-up to really conduct a proper in-country trials like what the Indians did. Maybe we, with our good relations with the Indian Air Force, could get some data from their trials most importantly on the medium lift, 30 passengers capabilities and the hot and high conditions and the purchase price.
On financial matters, I was told that the money allocated for the programme would allow us to purchase 12 helicopters if we were to purchase either the AW101 or EC725. Perhaps we could get the same numbers from Sikorsky if they reduce the unit price (the Superhawk is more expensive, I presume, since they have not sold that many). Of course for the same allocation, we could buy about 70 Mi-17s or about 30 to 40 Black Hawks (my personal choice).
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