Bangladesh Government to buy 4 Helicopters

The government is planning to procure four helicopters to be used in disaster management and relief operations, officials said.

The disaster management and relief ministry with the help of the defence ministry is now searching for the type of helicopter most suitable for the tasks. Most likely, Super Puma or Mil MI-17 will be selected, the officials said.

PT Dirgantara Indonesia Aerospace manufactures Super Puma under a licence from the Eurocopter Group based in Marignane, France. Mil MI-17 is manufactured by the Russian sate-run air transportation company Vertikal-T.

The current market price of a Super Puma or a Mil MI-17 helicopter is around $17 million.

The officials assess the financial involvement of the purchase will be to the tune of Tk 550 crore.

The Economic Relations Division has already been asked to negotiate with the Islamic Development Bank which has expressed its interest to provide credit on a low interest rate for purchasing the choppers, they said.

The defence ministry will lead the procurement, although the fund will come from the budget of the disaster management and relief ministry.

The country at present has no helicopter dedicated for disaster management and relief operations. The disaster management and relief ministry borrow choppers from the Bangladesh Air Force for carrying out its disaster management and relief activities during flooding and after cyclones.

Nowadays BAF helicopters are also used during fire incidents, the frequency of which has been on the rise in the capital and its suburbs as garment factories catch fires often because of a lack of fire safety arrangements.

The government initiated the move for purchasing choppers for disaster management and relief operations in early 2011. Several meetings of the stakeholders have already been organised by the defence ministry.

A senior Armed Forced Division official told New Age that at a meeting held on January 8 BAF experts favoured procurement of Mil MI-17, one of the most used choppers globally. He said the air force was also using MI-17 helicopters.

Dhaka recently signed a $1 billion credit deal with Moscow to purchase arms from state-run Russian companies. It is expected that MI-17 will be on that shopping list. The government is trying to obtain a soft loan from the IDB for buying the helicopters.

Meanwhile, representatives of the PT Dirgantara Indonesia Aerospace made a presentation on Super Puma at a BAF meeting on October 9 last year.

Officials concerned said a certain section of the government, on the other hand, was in favour of signing a Super Puma purchase deal with the PT Dirgantara Indonesia Aerospace as it might facilitate getting the IDB loan.

The government in December last procured two Bell-407 single-engine helicopters for the Rapid Action Battalion – for the first time for an agency other than the BAF – from the Bell Helicopter Asia (Pvt) Ltd for Tk 57 crore

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