Asia Defense | Security | South Asia

US, India Sign Contract for 6 More AH-64E Attack Helicopters

Deliveries of the new helicopters are expected to begin in 2023.

Franz-Stefan Gady
US, India Sign Contract for 6 More AH-64E Attack Helicopters
Credit: Indian Air Force via Twitter

India and the United States concluded an estimated $800 million contract earlier this week in New Delhi for the delivery of six additional Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters destined for service in the Indian Army’s Aviation Corps (AAC).

The Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), the top procurement body at the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD), greenlighted the sale in 2017. India issued a so-called Letter of Request to the U.S. government for the purchase of six more AH-64E gunships in February 2018. The U.S. State Department approved the direct commercial sale of six additional Boeing AH-64Es to India for an estimated cost of $930 million in June 2018. 

The deal signed this week includes the sale of 180 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 90 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire II missiles, and 200 Stinger Block I-92H missiles, next to 30 mm cannons and ammunition. The United States will also offer logistical support services and training.

The government-to-government defense deal falls under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, overseen by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and is separate from a $2.2 billion contract inked in 2015 for 22 AH-64Es and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters destined for service in the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Like the 2015 contract, this week’s deal combines a direct commercial sale with Boeing and an FMS agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense. The 2015 agreement also contains a clause for a follow-on order of 11 extra AH-64Es  and seven Chinooks at a fixed price that was agreed upon in 2013. 

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The AAC aims to stand up three separate AH-64E squadrons with a total of up to 39 helicopters. The AAC and the IAF have been locked in an inter-service rivalry over the new platforms for a number of years, as I reported elsewhere:

 [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 IAF formally inducted into service the first AH-64E at Pathankot air base in Punjab near the India-Pakistan border in September 2019. This was preceded by the IAF taking delivery of the first eight AH-64E helicopters in July and August of 2019 at Hindon Air Force Station (AFS) in Ghaziabad outside New Delhi. Out of the 22 AH-64Es, 17 have so far been delivered to the IAF. All 22 AH-64Es are expected to be handed over to the IAF by the end of March 2020.