Decision on heavylift copter competition this month
The government is expected to open bids to select a new heavylift helicopter for the IAF — a choice between the Boeing CH-47F Chinook and the Russian Mi-26T2. The competition looks to contract for 15 helicopters to augment and replace the small number of older generation Mi-26 choppers that currently operate from the IAF’s Chandigarh air base. Trials on both platforms took place in India and abroad in 2010-11. While Boeing has all but been officially declared winner in a parallel attack helicopter bid (it’s AH-64D Apache Block III has report- edly defeated the Russian Mi-28NE Night Hunter), the competition for the heavylift contract is still a hot one that could wing either way. The IAF has stressed this time on a high-altitude bad weather capability, something that both helicopters have been able to demonstrate. Sources indicate that the Boeing team made full use of combat videos of the Chinook in the highlands of Afghanistan to stress the platform’s high altitude prowess. The Mi-26T2 team has stressed platform commonality with what the IAF already operates and assured a lifetime supply of spares and support to assuage any concerns on that front, in addition to fielding an upgraded helicopters with much more advanced onboard and navigation systems than its earlier avatar in service with the IAF.