India is all set to hammer out a deal with the United States for six Apache attack helicopters for the army, two government officials said on Friday.
The army will deploy attack helicopters for the first time.
The Boeing-manufactured helicopters and associated equipment cleared by the council are expected to cost around $930 million.
“The Apache purchase is before the cabinet committee on security for final clearance. The deal will be inked in early 2020,” said one of the officials cited above, asking not to be named.
The AH-64E Apache multi-role combat helicopters are being bought under the US foreign military sales programme, Washington’s government-to-government method for selling US-built platforms.
The deliveries of the helicopters will begin in 2022, the second official said.
Armed with fire-and-forget Hellfire missiles, an Apache can track up to 128 targets a minute and prioritise threats. The missiles equip the gunships with heavy anti-armour capabilities.
“Being the first deal after the government decision to give attack helicopters to the army, it is of significance. However, just six helicopters constitute a flight and would have limited operational value.
The maintenance facilities of these six choppers should hopefully be dovetailed with the 22 Apaches that the IAF is acquiring – that’s two full helicopter squadrons,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
India placed orders worth $3.1 billion for 22 Apache helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers in 2015 for its air force. The Indian Air Force has begun inducting these helicopters.
The six army Apaches are being bought as a follow-on option to the 2015 contract. Attack helicopters have been on the army’s wish list for several years, but IAF objected to the plan.
The army says it requires more attack helicopters as it had moved a case to buy 39 Apaches a few years ago.
Since 2008, India has bought or ordered military equipment worth $15 billion from the US, including C-130J special operations planes, C-17 transport aircraft, P-8I submarine hunter planes, Harpoon missiles, helicopters, and M777 howitzers