The army is inching closer towards its goal of deploying Apache attack helicopters for the first time, with India issuing a Letter of Request (LoR) to the US government for buying Boeing-made Apache choppers, a person closely monitoring the project said.
The LoR is a significant step as it formally kicks off the foreign military sales programme, Washington’s government-to-government method for selling US-built platforms. “The LoR was issued recently and now the US has to respond with a Letter of Acceptance (LoA) to take the Apache deal forward,” said the person quoted above. The LoA could come in six months after which the two sides will begin negotiations to hammer out a deal.
India’s defence acquisition council green lighted the proposal to buy six Apache AH-64E attack helicopters from the US last August. The helicopters and associated equipment are expected to cost around Rs 4,168 crore.
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.
India placed orders worth $3.1 billion for 22 Apache helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers in 2015 for its air force. These machines will start arriving in the middle of 2019, changing the complexion of the Indian Air Force’s helicopter fleet that consists mainly of Russian platforms. The six Apaches cleared by the council are being bought as a follow-on option to the 2015 contract.
India will be the 14th country to operate the attack helicopters and Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches to international customers. Attack helicopters have been on the army’s wish list for several years, but the IAF has objected to the plan. The army has a requirement for more attack helicopters as it had moved a case to buy 39 Apaches three 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.
India spent more than $100 billion on buying new weapons and systems during 2008-17, with imports accounting for around 60-65% of the country’s military requirements. At $15 billion, military purchases from the US have consumed more than a fourth of the total capital expenditure for the last decade.
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