IAF to buy 22 heavy-duty Apache copters at $1.4 bn

Written by Huma Siddiqui | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 6 2012, 07:31am hrs
The Indian Air Force, which will turn 80 on October 8, will get a brand new set of wings. It will soon have Boeing's $1.4-billion Apache Longbow helicopters in its arsenal.The deal for 22 heavy-duty Apache helicopters was bagged by the US through the FMS route (foreign military sales), beating the Russian Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant's Mi-28 Havoc.

"The Apache helicopters deal has been finalised and it would be flown, maintained and paid for by the IAF, said chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne.

"The bids for the heavy-lift helicopters were opened a few weeks ago and the IAF is currently evaluating the life cycle costing for 15 of these machines, " Browne added.

Both the US and Russia are locked in a battle to supply 15 heavy-lift helicopters to IAF, with the Boeing-manufactured CH-47 Chinooks slugging it out against the Russian Mi-26 choppers.

These 15 helicopters will replace IAF's Russian Mi-26 helicopters, of which just three to four remain serviceable, Browne said.

"The bids for the mid-air tanker competition were opened on Thursday, and the life cycle costs will be evaluated first."

The $2-billion contract for procuring six mid-air refuelling tanker planes has Russian-origin Ilyushin-78 and European A-330 MRTT in the race

"By the end of the 13th five-year plan, almost 75 % of the IAF would have been modernised," he said when asked if the current economic slowdown has affected the force's modernisation plans.

The IAF is also inducting 139 Russian Mi-17 V-5 medium-lift helicopters for an estimated $2.4 billion. The workhorse Mi-17 has been in service for decades but the new-model V-5 is a vastly superior machine with new engines, rotor blades and avionics. An IAF order for 80 Mi-17s is already being delivered, which is likely to be followed by an order for 59 more.

The country's armed forces need 900 helicopters in the coming decade, including 384 light-utility and observation, 90 naval multirole, 65 light combat, 22 heavy-duty attack, 139 medium-lift and 15 heavy-lift among others.

The other big aviation deals bagged by the US include the $4.1-billion 10 C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft, the $2.1- billion eight P-8 I maritime patrol aircraft and a $962-million six C-130 J Super Hercules planes contract.