US hopes to grab helicopters order

Washington: Though the US lost out in the race to sell fighters to India, its armament companies are claiming to be front-runners for New Delhi`s new tenders for attack helicopters and heavy lift choppers.

"I have advocated for our tenders (by India) in the Attack Helicopter and Heavy Lift Helicopter competitions," Andrew J Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, said, adding that "We are hopeful that both will be selected."

The American companies, Boeings AH-64 D Apache, Sikrosky black hawk and Bell`s Super Cobra are in contention for USD 600 million tender to sell 22 attack helicopters. The other bidders are Russia with its MI-28 N Night hunter and Eurocopter.

The trials and evaluation of the tenders are already at an advanced stage with competitors participating in desert trials in Rajasthan and snow trials in Siachen. According to aviation sources, the Russians and European armament giant EADS are probably out of the hunt.

The American companies are also front-runners in the Indian tender to purchase 15 heavy lift helicopters. The new helicopters are to replace Russian-acquired MI-26. The US Assistant Secretary said he attended Aero India show in February to advocate for US defence sales.

"While India unfortunately did not down-select a US aircraft for its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition, I believe our relationship with India is much more than one sale," he said in his remarks to the Defence Trade Advisory Group.