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Agusta copters were exactly what we wanted: Air Chief
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Firm denies wrongdoing

  • Facing threat of cancellation of its deal, Italian firm AgustaWestland on Wednesday denied any wrongdoing in securing the multi-crore copter deal
  • The defence ministry says the company violated the pre-contract integrity pact, for which the government initiated action against it
  • The company said it had nominated Supreme Court ex-judge BN Srikrishna for arbitration with the ministry and it would deliver the formal written response to exceptions raised by the defence ministry.

Halwara, November 20
As the Centre moved ahead to complete the formalities of cancelling the controversy- ridden AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne on Wednesday said there was no problem with the machines.

Browne, who was visiting the Air Force Station at Halwara near Ludhiana to present the Presidential Standard to two IAF squadrons, said, "The helicopter had no problem. It was absolutely what we wanted."

The Euro 560 million ($757.40 million) deal to buy 12 helicopters for top politicians went off track in February after the then chief executive of Italian defence group Finmeccanica was arrested by the Italian police for allegedly paying bribes to secure the deal, prompting India to freeze payments to the company.

Reacting to a query on canceling of the AgustaWestland deal, Browne said, "It is for the government to decide. I cannot comment on it. I read in the newspaper that the government is meeting today to decide the fate of the deal. I believe the decision taken in the meeting would be good for the country.” Air Force sources have reiterated that scrapping the deal would be a setback to efforts to modernise India's air power.

On whether the government had made progress to make a fresh helicopter deal, Browne said, "We can discuss anything, but we first have to resolve this issue. The government will decide on the matter and some decision would surely be taken."

On shortage of officers, Browne admitted the IAF was 550 officers short. "Let’s not undermine the fact that the country’s youth is showing great interest in the air force. At a recent recruitment rally, we received over three lakh applications for 300 vacancies," he said. The Chief of Air Staff indicated the force was keen to strengthen its presence in the North-Eastern sector. (With PTI inputs)





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