No irregularity in purchase of old utility helicopters: Antony

New Delhi: The Government on Wednesday denied reports of any irregularity in the purchase of six old utility helicopters from the United States, which are being operated by the Indian Navy.

Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister A K Antony said, "Six UH-3H helicopters were procured in November 2006 at a total cost of Rs 182.14 crore from Foreign Military Sales program of the USA."

"The Navy at that time did not have utility helicopters in its inventory to operate from Landing Platform Docks, INS Jalashwa. It was essential that helicopters be procured so as to have their delivery along with the LPD to avoid additional transportation cost," he said.

The helicopters were purchased to meet the vertical lift requirement of the INS Jalashwa, also procured under FMS route from the USA. It is the only amphibious ship with the Indian Navy which can carry large number of troops and drop them close to the shore.

"The induction of helicopters with the ability to perform various roles like transportation of combat troops, vertical replenishment, search and rescue and casualty evacuation was necessary to enhance operational utilization of the LPD," Antony said.

He further said, "Procurement of new helicopters would have taken a long lead time of approximately five years with higher cost implications."

The Minister also informed the House on the observations made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) regarding the purchase.

"Observations made by CAG relates to air frame life, flight evaluation, availability and functioning of on-board equipment, delay in training and operationalization of squadron and serviceability." he said.