Russians battle for Army helicopter deal

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The Independent Online
A RUSSIAN military manufacturer is bidding for a major new contract to supply the British Army with 117 assault helicopters.

The manufacturer, Karmov, is seeking to bid for the pounds 2bn contract with its hi-tech Ka-50 aircraft, a machine which Nato codenames the 'Hokum'. Karmov hopes to win over the Government with its price of about pounds 8m per helicopter, which is thought to be almost one third cheaper than that of competitors.

The Hokum boasts a simplified rota blade system which saves on servicing charges. It is also operated by a single pilot which sharply reduces personnel costs. It carries a comprehensive package of armaments, including 12 anti-tank missiles guided by lazer.

The Ministry of Defence said that its priority was value for money. But though cost puts the Hokum ahead of the field, there is understood to be a question mark over ensuring supplies of spare parts. The Army also traditionally prefers two-pilot helicopters which are felt to cope better with the demands of modern warfare.

Ironically, the favourite to win the contract is the Apache AH-64, made in the US. McDonnell- Douglas, the Apache's manufacturers, are unruffled by this apparent revival of Cold War rivalries. 'We think the Apache is the best assault helicopter in the world,' a spokesman said. 'If the Russians want to compete, good luck to them.'