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SOURCE: THE PRINT

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has come down heavily on the Indian Air Force (IAF) for “aligning” its tender requirement for heavy lift choppers to suit the Boeing-manufactured Chinook, which the force finally bought in 2015.

The CAG, however, maintained that there were inadequate field evaluation trials for both the Chinook CH-47, manufactured in the US and its competitor, the Russian Mi-26.In a paragraph titled “ASQRs (Air Staff Qualitative Requirements) aligned to Chinook”, the audit has noted that though the existing Mi-26 helicopters were to be replaced with new heavy-lift helicopters (HLH), “the parameters formulated for procurement were much lower”.

“The max payload capacity was reduced to 11,000 kgs as against the 20,000 kgs of Mi 26 helicopters. Seating capacity was also reduced to 45 troops as against the 82 troops of Mi-26 helicopters,” the CAG report says.

“The max underslung load was reduced to 10,000 kgs as against the underslung load capacity of 20,000 kgs of Mi-26 helicopter.”

The CAG report notes that the “revised ASQR parameters matched those of the Chinook helicopter”, adding that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) did not contest the fact that the ASQRs were aligned to Chinook helicopter.

The report further notes that during the FET (Field Evaluation Trials), the Chinook helicopter did not meet eight critical ASQR parameters while the Mi-26 did not meet five ASQR parameters.

ASQR revised five times

The CAG report states that the ASQR parameters were revised five times between 2006 and 2009. Thus the ASQRs were being drafted in consultation with the vendors “or in other words were being modified according to what was offered by them rather than the user need”.

The primary objective of these helicopters was to provide heavy lift support to the Army for its combat operation.

The CAG noted that there was a large difference between the payload capacity of Mi-26 helicopter and CH-47.

The Mi-26 helicopter is capable of carrying 20 tonnes in a single drop mission as against the payload of 11 tonnes by the CH-47 helicopter. Seating capacity of Mi-26 helicopter is 82 with fully equipped troops whereas the seating capacity of CH-47 Chinook is only 45.

Thus, for transporting weapons, equipment and men to support combat operation, the CH-47 would have to make double the trips as compared to the Mi-26 helicopter.