The Indian Army, which had been pitching for a dedicated fleet of attack helicopters for a long time, finally got approval from the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) to get six Apache attack helicopters at a cost of around Rs 4,168 crore. The DAC, headed by defence and finance minister Arun Jaitley, cleared the proposal on Thursday to buy six Apache attack helicopters for the army. The Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopter, the most advanced multi-role heavy attack helicopter in the world, will come with associated equipment including spares, training and ammunition.
The proposal was also discussed in a DAC meeting held in May. The army had initially asked for 22 attack helicopters to be transferred to its custody, which was rejected by the air force. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has strongly opposed the creation of a separate mini-air wing by the army, which the former felt would reduce its role.
India has exercised the optional clause in the original deal signed with the US in November 2015. Under a $3-billion deal, India has contracted 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters through the foreign military sales programme. This means that both the services would operate several helicopter types, which would mean duplication of efforts for logistics, maintenance and support.
For a long time the army had pitched for its own dedicated attack helicopter fleet integrated with its strike corps and has recently expressed the desire to have 39 Apaches. Presently, India operates a mix of Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, which are with the IAF.
The army has already placed a firm order for 114 indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), which are in an advanced stage of induction, and has also ordered Rudra helicopters, the weaponised variant of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). The air force too has ordered the Rudra and 65 LCH.
The DAC also cleared a proposal to buy two sets of gas turbines from Ukraine for two Grigorovich-class ships being built in Russia for India. The gas turbines will be bought by India from Ukraine due to the ongoing tension between the two nations — Russia and Ukraine. Their cost is Rs 490 crore.