India is close to finalizing a second contract with Russia for another 59 Mi-17V-5 tactical transport helicopters after the phased delivery of the first 80 of these choppers began this fall, The Times of India reported on Sunday.
"The 59 more Mi-17s, which will cost around $1 billion, will be ordered under the follow-on clause in the first contract. They will also be weaponized for combat operations like the first 80," the paper said, referring to a well-informed source.
In November, India took the delivery of the first batch of 80 Mi-17V-5 helicopters ordered under a $1.345 billion deal in 2008.
A senior official at the Indian Defense Ministry confirmed to RIA Novosti that India was negotiating the purchase of an additional 59 helicopters from Russia.
"The negotiations are, indeed, going on. Possibly, a contract on the delivery of this additional batch of Mi-17 helicopters will be signed already this financial year, i.e. before March 31, 2012," he said.
The helicopters are being built by Russian Helicopters' Kazan Helicopter Factory (KVZ) subsidiary.
The Mi-17V-5 is designed for utility cargo work and can carry up to 36 passengers or four tons. The machine features advanced multifunction cockpit displays and upgraded TV3-117VM engines.
India is one of the world's largest Mi-8 and Mi-17 operators with over 200 aircraft in service. The Mi-8/17 family is the most widely produced helicopter design in history, with over 11,000 delivered to more than 110 countries.