Chinook wins $1-billion Indian heavy-lift multi-role helicopter deal
It has been a close fight, but a winner has finally emerged. The US-built Boeing CH-47F Chinook has emerged as the most competitive offering in a two-way race against Russia’s Mi-26T2 for the Indian Air Force’s heavy-lift helicopter requirement. While both helicopters performed well in field evaluation trials (both were reported to have met requirements and were found compliant), it is understood that the Chinook won out on price—which includes a matrix of unit flyaway cost of each machine, ownership cost (which includes life-cycle and operating costs) as well as the cost of maintenance and transfer of technology.
The Ministry of Defence will shortly open contract negotiations with Boeing for a contract that could top $1-billion. The Chinook’s victory is Boeing’s second big win in just the last few weeks—earlier in October, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne announced that the government had chosen Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Block III to meet a requirement of 22 attack helicopters. In that competition too, the American-built helicopter beat a Russian competitor, the Mi-28N Night Hunter. The IAF is said to have been impressed with both the Chinook and Mi-26T2, and was apparently equally willing to operate either aircraft. Indeed, it already operates a small number of old generation Mi-26s at its Chandigarh air force station. One of Boeing’s strategies against the Mi-26 has been to focus on the advantages and inherent operational flexibilities of a tandem rotor helicopter, which allows mission commanders greater leeway for special operations and high altitude missions.
Concerns had already been prevalent in the IAF over maintenance and serviceability of the Mi-26 fleet. With the Chinook, Boeing’s win register in India is positively ringing. The Chinook joins the AH-64D Apache, P-8I Poseidon for the Indian Navy (with more likely to be contracted) and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.