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 ₹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 ₹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 ₹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 upgradate, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Limited were to supply ₹1,720 crore worth of essential components. Contract had yet not been concluded between the MoD and HAL, BEL for this supply. “Thus even after 18 years, upgradation of the helicopters has not been completed.”
Of the 90 copters, 56 were inducted into the IAF between 1984-89 and have a Total Calendar Life of 35 years.
Limitations of Mi-17 Helicopters
The Mi-17 and Mi-17 1V helicopters of the IAF 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 (AoN) 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.
The report said that as per the contract, the two prototypes of each type of helicopter, Mi-17 and Mi-17 1V, would be upgraded by Elbit systems and delivered by July 2018 and January 2019 respectively.
The remaining 86, 54 Mi-17 and 32 Mi-17 1V, would thereafter be upgraded indigenously with transfer of technology from the vendor. For this, certain components and sub-systems were to be procured by HAL and BEL. “This involved an additional cost of ₹1,720 crore, the contract for which has not been concluded yet (June 2020),” the report stated.
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