Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Agusta Westland Chopper SCAM: India accepts what Obama can’t afford

3 Of 12 Copters Worth 3,546cr Already In Elite IAF Squad
New Delhi: US president Barack Obama had found a variant of the AW-101 helicopters too exorbitant to pass muster in 2009. But the Indian government had no such qualms while inking the Rs 3,546-crore deal for 12 plush AW-101 helicopters just a year later in 2010.

The American ‘‘Marine One’’, the call sign of the US Marine Corps helicopter which ferries the President of the USA, would of course have been much more hightech and ‘‘souped-up’’ helicopter compared to the Indian variant.

Obama had shot down the Marine One project, under which the US Navy was to have acquired 28 helicopters, after cost escalations had taken the overall cost to over $13 billion in June 2009, as per estimates.

Money, instead, was invested to upgrade the existing US presidential copter fleet. Last heard, another AW-101 variant was again in contention to bag the US Navy’s latest programme to develop the ‘‘Marine One Presidential Helicopter’’.

Three of the 12 AW-101 choppers contracted by India — eight in VVIP configuration and four in non-VVIP – have already been inducted in the IAF’s elite Communication Squadron, which ferries around the President, PM and other VVIPs, at the Palam airbase. They are slated to replace the ageing Russian-origin Mi-8s and Mi-17s being currently used to fly VVIPs within the country.

Indian VVIPs have been getting plush new aircraft and helicopters to travel in style and security over the last decade. The AW-101s, for instance, have robust self-defence systems like missileapproach warners, chaff and flare dispensers and directed infra-red electronic counter-measures to protect VVIPs on board. In the VVIP configuration, they ferry only 10 passengers instead of the usual 40.

Another concern of the Special Protection Group (SPG), which provides proximate security to the PM, was that the helicopters have ‘‘a high tail boom’’ to allow cars to come right next to the rear exit staircase without ‘‘exposing’’ VVIPs to a threat from anyone in the vicinity.

Earlier, India had inducted five mid-sized Embraer 135BJ Legacy jets, under a Rs 727-crore deal in September 2003, and three Business Boeing Jets (BBJs), under a Rs 937-crore contract in October 2005, for the travel of VVIPs.

The BBJs also have advanced self-protection suites to guard against missiles and other threats. While the Legacy jets replaced old HS-748 Avros with the Communication Squadron, the BBJs substituted the two 737-200 aircraft which had been bought in 1983.


One of the first scandals to hit independent India. In 1948 Indian high commissioner in Britain V K Krishna Menon was accused of bypassing procurement protocols to sign a deal worth Rs 80 lakh to buy 155 jeeps from UK. Many also alleged they were second hand jeeps. Government did not permit a judicial inquiry. Menon went on to become India’s defence minister.

The most infamous of all defence scandals the country has seen. Allegations emerged in the late 80s that kickbacks were received in the purchase of Bofors guns from Sweden. Several high profile individuals figured among the accused, probe went on for many years and finally ended in a whimper. However, politically, it brought down the fortunes of Rajiv Gandhi

Allegations emerged in 1987 that German defence firm has paid a commission for the purchase of submarines by India, signed in early 80s. Former navy chief and one of the architects of 1971 war, Admiral SM Nanda, was among those raided. The CBI closed its probe, failing to find any proof of bribes being paid.

Two reporters who went around as representatives of a fake defence firm recorded key political leaders, military officers and babus talking in detail about how bribery is paid in defence deals. Defence minister George Fernandes had to quit after his party’s treasurer boasted about collecting bribes along with Jaya Jaitley from arms dealers. Many specific evidence emerged of paybacks in purchase of Barak missiles from Israel etc. No major breakthrough by CBI till date.

The son of former MP is in jail, and his wife are accused of stealing defence secrets and accepting bribes from defence firms. Investigations are continuing into the affairs. Verma may have also had a role in the VVIP helicopter deal

In 2009 CBI arrested ex-chief of Ordnance Factory Board, Sudipta Ghosh and several of his associates for fixing contracts of OFB. After CBI found evidence of bribery, the government in March 2012 blacklisted six companies for 10 years — Singapore Technologies, Israeli Military Industries, Germany’s Rheinmetall Air Defence, Russian firm Corporation Defence, Indian firms T S Kisan & Company and R K Machine Tool

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