Within weeks of the defence ministry cancelling the Rs3,600 crore deal with AgustaWestland to procure 12 VVIP choppers, it has quietly gone ahead and cleared another multi-million dollar deal with Finmeccanica, Agusta’s parent company, for the procurement of 98 torpedoes for the navy.
So, was this deal done because all the processes for the torpedo deal were declared as ‘clean’ by various committees? Or was it done despite the fact that Augusta Westland could soon find itself blacklisted? Once blacklisted all companies in the group including the parent company, in this case Finmeccanica, also face the axe.
Significantly, this deal has been struck at a time when the process of blacklisting Finmeccanica has begun. A top defence ministry source told dna that about a fortnight ago, the Defence Acquisition Council headed by Antony cleared the proposal to procure Black Shark torpedoes for $300 million for the navy. “Now, it will go to the cabinet committee on security for the final nod,” said a senior ministry officer.
Black Shark torpedoes are multi-purpose weapons designed to launch from both submarines and surface vessels. They are manufactured by a Finmeccanica company called WASS (Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei).
According to sources, the Indian navy will arm its Scorpene and conventional submarines with Black Shark torpedoes which have a range of 30 miles and can be launched from submarines and warships. Of the 98 torpedoes that India has sought, 20 would be procured from the original equipment manufacturer and the rest would be manufactured by Bharat Dynamics under licence in India. Transfer of technology under the contract will allow maintenance and overhaul of the torpedoes.
Some MPs questioned the procurement process and levelled allegations. Antony set up a Special Technical Oversight Committee to look into the complaints. The committee in its May 2013 report said the procurement process was carried out in a transparent manner.