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PM, President to receive high-class helicopters

A File Photo of AgustaWestland AW101

NEW DELHI (BNS): The Indian PM and President are all set to acquire 12 high-class and secure helicopters for VVIP travels on the lines of 'Marine One.'

According to the English daily The Times Of India, the multi-million dollar deal to procure the 12 EH/AW-101 helicopters, manufactured by Italian aviation major AgustaWestland, is in the concluding stages now.

"The Cabinet Committee on Security will have to give the final nod before the contract is inked," said a defence ministry source, as quoted by the news report.

The Indian EH-101 helicopters will have self-defence systems like missile-approach warners, chaff and flare dispensers and directed infra-red electronic counter-measures to protect the VVIPs on board.

The new helicopters will replace ageing Russian-origin Mi-8s and Mi-17s being operated by IAF's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries around the President and PM.

The AW-101 can carry around 40 combat troops but will ferry 10 passengers in the VVIP configuration. It has three engines for better power and safety.

The AW-101 was also found to be a rugged helicopter, with crashworthy and damage-tolerant features, capable of hovering even in winds over 80 kmph. "We also wanted a helicopter with a service-ceiling of over 4.5 km and capable of operating at night,'' said an official, as per the report.

The PM and the President of India currently have the three desi versions of US presidentís 'Air Force One.'

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