The Indian government is reportedly moving ahead with the procurement of six additional Boeing AH-64E Apache heavy attack helicopters from the United States, an Indian government source told local media this month.
The Indian government has purportedly issued a so-called Letter of Request (LOR) to the U.S. government for buying six AH-64E gunships. The LOR is the first official step in the U.S. government-to-government procurement process under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, overseen by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
“The LoR was issued recently and now the U.S. has to respond with a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) to take the Apache deal forward,” the source told the Hindustan Times. The Defense Acquisition Council, the Indian Ministry of Defense’s principal procurement body, headed by the defense minister, approved the purchase in August 2017. The LOA is expected in the next six months.
The six AH-64E Apache helicopter gunships are reportedly slated for delivery in 2020 after the completion of an initial order placed in 2015 for 22 AH-64Es and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The six additional helicopters, however, are intended for service in the Indian Army’s Aviation Corps (AAC).
It is likely that the government-t0-government deal will be concluded relatively quickly.
The 2015 contract contained a clause for a follow-on option of 11 extra Apaches and seven Chinooks at a fixed price that was agreed upon in 2013. The purchase of AH-64E attack helicopters has showcased deep interservice rivalry between the AAC and IAF, as I explained last year:
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 interservice 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.
The AAC is now slated to operate its separate AH-64E helicopter squadron, although it is unlikely that this will subdue interservice rivalry in the long run. In total, the AAC intends to procure 39 AH-64E helicopters divided up into three squadrons stationed along the India-China and India-Pakistan borders to deter armored incursions.