Scorpene submarine purchase put on hold

The VVIP helicopter scam has cast its shadow on yet another naval project as the defence ministry is withholding a decision on the procurement of 100 Black Shark torpedos from a Finmeccanica group company for six Scorpene submarines.

The government had not taken a decision on the procurement of these heavy-weight and long-range torpedoes, which may remain effective against all types of surface and under-sea targets for the next 20 years. The torpedoes are manufactured by Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei, which is a Finmeccanica group company.

Following the VVIP-helicopter scam in which former top executives of Finmeccanica and its UK-based helicopter-making subsidiary AgustaWestland are involved, all deals with Finmeccanica group companies are under scanner. Following the choppergate, the defence ministry has put on hold further delivery of nine VVIP choppers and all payments due to the company.

The first three copters arrived in December and Agusta received almost 45 per cent of the payment before the controversy broke. But still there is no clarity on how contracts being negotiated or concluded with other Finmeccanica group companies would be dealt with by the defence ministry.

Defence Minister A K Antony informed Lok Sabha that the ministry received representation (on the Black Shark deal) from one competing vendor and MPs. No names were given.A special technical oversight committee was constituted with approval from defence acquisition council to review the evaluation process and complaints.

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