The modernisation of the Indian Air Force’s Mi-17 medium-lift helicopters—proposed in 2002—has not been achieved, compromising the fleet’s operational readiness, India’s top auditor said in a report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said the choppers were flying with limited capability, attributing the situation to “poor planning and indecision.”“The defence ministry due to poor planning and indecision at various stages of procurement took 15 years to enter (January 2017) into the upgradation contract of 90 Mi-17 helicopters with an Israeli company.The auditor said that inadequate availability of fleet tankers with Indian Navy forced it to hire ships from trade.Tankers provide water, ammunition and stores to warships at sea. “The approval for acquisition of fleet tankers at a cost of Rs 9,045 crore was accorded in 2014. However, the contract was yet to be concluded till August 2019,” the report said.The contracted delivery of these upgraded helicopters was to start from July 2018 and be completed by 2024. Audit, however, noted that after upgradation, 56 of these helicopters would be left with less than two years of life and would be phased out by 2024,” the CAG said in a report on the Air Force—one of three reports tabled in Parliament.The report also highlighted irregularities in the purchase of aero engines for unmanned aerial vehicles, citing a case where a foreign vendor—Israel Aerospace Industries—supplied such engines at more than three times the market price.
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