SOURCE: RAUNAK KUNDE / NEWS BEAT / IDRW.ORG.
Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to reactivate a tender to procure new VVIP helicopters that will be used for the president, prime minister, and other VVIPs. This decision comes after successfully resolving the previously cancelled AgustaWestland chopper scam. The IAF, in consultation with organizations like the Special Protection Group (SPG), National Security Guard (NSG), and others, will soon float an open tender to seek new helicopters.
Currently, the Mi-17-5 helicopters are being used for VVIP duties, but they lack integrated protections against multi-level threats. Therefore, the IAF intends to replace them with new helicopters that offer enhanced security features.
In February 2010, during the ruling UPA government, a contract was signed to purchase 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the Indian Air Force for Rs 3,600 crore. These helicopters were intended to transport the president, prime minister, and other VVIPs. However, in 2013, the chairman of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, and the CEO of AgustaWestland, Bruno Spagnolini, was arrested on charges of bribing middlemen to secure the deal with the IAF.
In 2014, the Congress-led UPA government cancelled the VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland due to violations of the integrity pact. The Indian government has since recovered most of the money paid to the Italian company for the contract.
In 2022, the NDA government decided to lift the ban on dealings with the Italian firm Leonardo (previously known as Finmeccanica). India has successfully recovered the full amount of the deal through bank guarantees and has agreed to the return of three AW101 helicopters that were previously stored at the IAF base in Palam.
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