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IAF to get 12 VVIP choppers from Europe's AgustaWestland

NEW DELHI (PTI): India has signed a Rs 3,726-crore deal with a British-Italian aerospace firm for 12 plush helicopters that will ferry President, Prime Minister and VVIPs.

AgustaWestland will deliver the three-engined AW-101 helicopters, with advanced security features to thwart missile attacks and provide a robust and secure communication facility to the VVIPS, in three years, a Defence Ministry official said here Friday.

The swanky helicopters for VVIP travel, modelled on US President's 'Marine One', will join the Indian Air Force's Communication Squadron, which is responsible for transport of India's top political leadership.

The VVIP helicopters deal comes after India had bought five medium sized Embraer 135BJ Legacy jet in September 2003 for Rs 727 crore to replace the old HS-748 Avros and three Boeing Business Jets for Rs 937 crore in October 2005 in place of Boeing 737-200 aircraft inducted in 1983.

Both the fleet have been delivered to the IAF's Communication Squadron.

The 12 new helicopters will replace the IAF's ageing Russian-origin Mi-8s and Mi-17s that were hitherto used for ferrying the VVIPs.

The nod for the VVIP helicopter deal had come from the Cabinet Committee on Security recently, despite objections from the Finance Ministry to the "exorbitant price" quoted by AgustaWestland.

Defence Minister A K Antony had defended the deal last month citing 'security concerns' raised by the Special Protection Group as well as the Air Force.

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