An upgrade of 90 medium lift Mi-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) proposed in 2002 could not be achieved even after 18 years, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said, as a result of which these “helicopters were flying with limited capability, thus compromising operational preparedness during these years”, and the expenditure of about Rs. 223 crore was “not justified” with limited life left in 56 of them.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) concluded a contract with Elbit Systems of Israel for the upgrade of the 90 copters at Rs. 618.23 crore in January 2017. “After upgradation, 56 of these helicopters would be left with less than two years of life. The expenditure of Rs. 222.92 crore being incurred on their upgradation is not justified,” the CAG said in a report tabled in Parliament early this week.
The 56 helicopters would be phased out by 2024. In addition, for the upgradation, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Limited were to supply Rs. 1,720 crore worth of essential components, for which a contract had yet not been concluded.
The Mi-17 and Mi-17 1V helicopters had certain limitations in operating in adverse weather, night conditions and in electronic warfare dense battlefield. Due to this, the IAF initiated the proposal to upgrade 172 helicopters in 2002 and the Acceptance of Necessity was accorded by the Defence Acquisition Council in 2005. But the Request For Proposal was not issued even after two years as the IAF could not finalise the number of copters to be upgraded. After a series of delays, during which few helicopters were lost in accidents, a contract for the upgradate of 90 was signed with Elbit systems.