On Sunday, India received the first batch of four CH-47F (I) Chinook helicopters destined for the Indian Air Force at Gujarat’s Mundra port, on the country’s western coast. The four military helicopters, manufactured by U.S. defense firm Boeing, are part of a larger order comprising 11 additional Chinooks and 22 Apache helicopters for the Indian Air Force.
“The CH-47F (I) Chinook is an advanced multi-mission helicopter that will provide the Indian armed forces with unmatched strategic airlift capability across the full spectrum of combat and humanitarian missions. The Indian Air Force currently has 15 Chinook helicopters on order,” a statement released by Boeing noted.
The agreement over the sale was concluded between the United States and India on September 28, 2015. The deal was estimated at the time to have been worth around $3 billion. The conclusion of the sale had been delayed at the time amid ongoing negotiations between the United States and India over offset obligations. (Offsets require the seller to invest a portion of the contract price in India.)
The Chinook transfer underscores ongoing strategic convergence between New Delhi and Washington in the realm of defense cooperation. In 2016, the Obama administration designated India a “major defense partner,” a bespoke status that would grant New Delhi access to sensitive U.S. defense technologies at a level comparable to NATO allies.
At their first meeting in June 2017, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald J. Trump “pledged to deepen defense and security cooperation, building on the United States’ recognition of India as a Major Defense Partner.” The joint statement added that the two sides “look forward to working together on advanced defense equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States.”
The Indian Air Force’s choice of the Apache and the Chinook back in the late-2000s marked a win for Boeing and a loss for Russia, which had put forward to the Mi-28 Havoc and Mi-26 as offerings. Last year, New Delhi requested to increase its AH-64E Apache order with an additional six units.
In addition to the Chinook and Apache, India, the single largest importer of defense equipment in the world, is a major purchaser of U.S. equipment. In recent years, New Delhi has purchased a range of platforms, including lightweight howitzers, Harpoon missiles, surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, transport aircraft, and special operations aircraft from the United States.
At the inaugural so-called ‘2+2’ ministerial dialogue between top defense and foreign officials from both countries, the two sides “noted the rapid growth in bilateral defense trade and the qualitative improvement in levels of technology and equipment offered by the United States to India in recent years.”