NEW DELHI: In a last-ditch effort to make an entry into a Rs 21,000 crore project to manufacture naval helicopters, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has written to the defence ministry requesting that its bid also be considered.

The mega project under the strategic partnership (SP) model had been ‘reserved’ for the private sector, with the navy already having shortlisted four companies that would be eligible to tie up with a foreign vendor to manufacture 111 Naval Utility Helicopters domestically.

While TATA, Mahindra, Adani and Bharat Forge have been identified as companies that meet the financial and technical criteria required, HAL has been rejected as the bid documents had clearly mentioned that only private sector companies are eligible.

Sources said as the shortlist is yet to be approved by the apex Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC), HAL has requested a reconsideration, stating that it is the most qualified company to build choppers given its history in the aviation sector. However, the HAL bid is likely to be strongly opposed by the navy that does not want any delays to impact the critical plan. The helicopter bid is also the pilot project under the SP model and would impact the fate of all other plans.