The Army today signed a Rs 300 crore contract with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for procuring 20 Cheetal helicopters to boost its capability in carrying out high-altitude operations in areas like Siachen.
The Cheetals are being procured to fulfil the deficiencies faced by the force in light helicopter segment in view of the delays in the procurement of new 197 choppers for it and the IAF.
The Cheetal helicopters are the upgraded versions of the Cheetah/Chetak choppers in the Indian Armed Forces and have been equipped with stronger engines to enhance their performance.
The negotiations for the deal started in December 2010 and it was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister A K Antony last December, they said.
The Cheetals come with a longer range than their predecessors and will have a range of 640 km in comparison with the 540 km of the vintage choppers.
They will also have a better load-carrying capability in the high altitude areas as they can carry 90 kg while the Cheetahs can carry only 50 kg along with the pilots.
Army has some of its squadrons of Cheetah/Chetak choppers deployed in Siachen base camp and around Leh in Jammu and Kashmir to support its troops deployed at and along the world's highest battlefield there, the officials said.
The Defence Ministry is procuring 197 LUHs of which 133 would go to army while the remaining would go to IAF.
The deal is awaiting clearance by the DAC which has to decide on whether to allow certain deviations in the tendering process after going through a Special Technical Oversight Committee report in this regard.
European Eurocopter AS550 Fennec and Russian Kamov 226 Sergei are in race for supplying these new choppers.