Chi­nook wins $1-bil­lion In­dian heavy-lift multi-role heli­copter deal

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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.

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