India has released a global tender for roughly 60 utility helicopters to replace the Indian navy’s vintage Chetak helos.

“A request for proposals [RFP] has been issued for buying mainly twin-engine helos. The deal is approximately worth $900 million,” a defense ministry official says.

The official says Sikorsky, Eurocopter, Kamov and AgustaWestland are among the likely respondents.

The RFP comes four years after India issued a global tender for 197 utility helicopters — 133 for the Indian army and 64 for the Indian air force — to replace aging Chetak and Cheetah aircraft. These helos are critical for providing supplies to troops deployed in Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield, and other high-altitude areas.

Procedural lapses forced the government to reissue the joint tender for 197 helos in 2008, two years after it was initially issued. Eurocopter’s AS550-C3 Fennec and Russian manufacturer Kamov’s Ka-226 are in the running for the deal. “We haven’t decided as yet the winner for this tender,” the official says. “It’s in the final stages.” Flight tests of the two contenders were completed in December 2010.

At the time, the navy could not participate in the joint program because it was still completing its requirement, the official says. The Indian navy currently has over 100 helicopters, including indigenous Dhruvs, Sikorsky Sea Kings, Chetaks, and Kamov’s Ka-25, Ka-28 and Ka-31 helicopters.

Chetak is a single-engine turboshaft, light-utility French helicopter able to carry six passengers or a 500-kg (1,100-lb.) load. The anti-tank version carries four AS-11 wire-guided missiles. It has a maximum speed of 220 kph (140 mph).

Cheetah is a single-engine helicopter of French origin able to carry three passengers or a 100-kg external sling load. It has a maximum cruise speed of 121 kph and can climb to 1 km (3,280 ft.) in four minutes.

Chetak helicopter photo: Indian navy