By Arup Roychoudhury
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has chosen Boeing Corp as the preferred bidder to supply 15 heavy lift helicopters for its Air Force, a Defence Ministry source said on Monday, potentially the second major Indian contract this year for the Seattle-based firm.
Boeing's Chinook twin rotor helicopters emerged as the lowest bidder and will now hold exclusive negotiations with the ministry, the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Depending on how things progress, the final announcement will take three to six months," said the source, who did not give details of the value of the deal.
In Indian defence deals, exclusive talks are not a guarantee of sale.
Earlier this year Boeing's Apache was chosen as the preferred bidder for a deal to provide 22 heavy combat helicopters to India. It was up against Russian Mi-28.
Sections of the media have reported the heavy lift helicopter deal to be valued at $1 billion, and the combat helicopter deal at $1.4 billion.
The Chinook's competitor in the Indian bid was the Russian Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant's Mi-26.
Boeing is also supplying P-8 maritime surveillance planes and C-17 cargo aircraft to the world's largest arms importer.
India has been a big buyer of Soviet Union weaponry and still relies on Russia for 60 percent of its arms purchases, but has diversified its suppliers in recent years. Israel is now the No. 2 seller, with countries like the United States and France also increasing their presence. (Reporting by Arup Roychoudhury; editing by Patrick Graham)