Asia Defense

India Clears Purchase of 6 US-Made Attack Helicopters

This is first time that the Indian Army will operate U.S.-made Apache attack helicopters.

India Clears Purchase of 6 US-Made Attack Helicopters
Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Robert M Schalk

The Indian Army’s Aviation Corps (AAC) will soon operate six U.S.-made AH-64E Apache heavy attack helicopters following today’s approval of the purchase by the Defense Ministry’s top procurement body, the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Indian Minister of Defense Arun Jaitley.

The new helicopters for the AAC are expected to be delivered beginning in 2020, following the completion of an order for 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters for the Indian Air Force placed in 2015. The 2015 contract contained a clause for a follow-on order of 11 extra Apaches and seven Chinooks at a fixed price that was agreed upon in 2013 and following repeated American price validity extensionsAs I explained earlier this year, the purchase has caused considerable friction between the Indian Army and Air Force:

For a number of years, the Indian Army has been engaged in a tug of war with the Indian Air Force over who should operate this future fleet of Apache gunships. The Army initially asked for the gunships to be inducted into its ranks, or for the Air Force to at least share the helicopters with the ground forces. The Air Force, however, rejected both proposals.

Furthermore, I reported:

 [T]he prolonged negotiations over the initial batch of 22 Apache helicopters are partially to blame for the inter-service rivalry. In 2012, then Indian National Security Advisor Shankar Menon decided that any new attack helicopters procured would go the Army. The Air Force, however, countered that it had already begun the acquisition process in 2012.  Following extensive field trials, the Indian Air Force selected the Apache gunship and the Chinook helicopter in 2009.

Today’s announcement confirms that the AAC has won the inter-service argument and will operate its separate AH-64E helicopter squadron. Indeed, the AAC is seeking to buy a total of 39 AH-64E helicopters divided up into three squadrons. The helicopters are expected to be stationed near India’s borders with China and Pakistan and will be used to destroy enemy tanks as well as armored vehicles on the mechanized battlefield in the event of a conflict.

The AH-64E helicopter, operated by a two-man crew, is the latest and most advanced variant of the helicopter gunship, The gunship is armed with a M230 30 millimeter chain gun capable of firing up to 625 high-explosive dual-purpose rounds per minute, and can also accommodate up to 16 AGM-114L Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets. The Indian Air Force selected the Apache gunship in 2009 over the Russian-made Mi-28 Havoc and Mi-26 helicopters.