Indian Army is all set to get Apache attack helicopters from US-based manufacturer Boeing, in a move that will greatly modernise and enhance its offensive capabilities.
The deal is believed to be for 6 Apache choppers — the likes of which are often used in combat by the US armed forces themselves — and will set India back by around Rs 4,168 crore, now that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has given its nod to the deal.
Indian Air Force (IAF) is already getting 22 Apache choppers as per a deal finalised in September 2015. The current order of six helicopters is over and above those choppers.
Apache and more
Several reports claimed on Thursday, August 17, that the DAC — which is the highest decision-making body within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) — considered the Army's request and gave its nod to it.
The development is the culmination of several years of efforts by the Army to get some attack choppers in its ranks. It had even requested the IAF to loan some of its own Apache choppers, which the Air Force had turned down.
The army has its sights set on the Light Combat helicopter (LCH) being built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as well. The LCH is currently undergoing weapons integration at the MoD-owned public sector undertaking.
The Army's Aviation Corps has a requirement of 114 helicopters, but no contract currently exists that fulfils any of this demand.
The DAC has also okayed the purchase of two sets of gas turbines from Ukraine for two Grigorovich-class ships being built in Russia for India. The deal for the turbines is worth Rs 490 crore.
What is the Apache AH-64E?
The variant of the attack chopper Indian Army will get is the Apache AH-64E, which has a height of 15.24 ft or 4.64 m and a wingspan of 17.15 ft or 5.227 m.
The helicopter has a primary mission gross weight of 6,838 kg, with a vertical rate of climb that is more than 2,000 ft per minute and a maximum rate of climb of more than 2,800 ft per minute.
The chopper also has a maximum level flight speed of more than 150 knots — 279 km per hour.
Besides India and the US, the Apache AH-64E is also used by Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
Doklam standoff weighs in?
India is currently in a standoff with China over the Doklam region in Bhutan, which Beijing has started claiming as its own. Amid the standoff came a report by India's national auditor that the armed forces do not have enough ammunition to last a war of even 10 days.
There is speculation in some quarters that this, along with India's push for modernising its military, could have resulted in the DAC okaying the purchase of six Apache helicopters for Indian Army.
The MoD, it may be mentioned here, has already asked the Central government for Rs 20,000 crore to ensure that the armed forces are battle-ready.