Cabinet okays $3-bn deal to buy US choppers

Cabinet okays $3-bn deal to buy US choppers

IAF to get 22 Apache and 15 Chinook helicopters

Cabinet okays $3-bn deal to buy US choppers
Almost a decade after the Indian Air Force (IAF) first proposed to purchase heavy and medium-lift helicopters, the NDA government has cleared the decks to buy 22 Apache 64D Block-III attack helicopters and 15 Chinook CH-47 heavy lift choppers from Boeing.

The Cabinet Committee on Security approved the purchase on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second visit to the US, during which commercial agreements could be inked. The deal may be worth close to $3 billion, though there is no official confirmation on the value.

The Apache deal is a hybrid one, in which one contract would be signed with Boeing for the chopper and a second with the US government for its weapons, radars and electronic warfare suites, said government sources.

Both contracts will have clauses to place follow-on orders for 11 more Apaches and seven extra Chinooks.

The prices have doubled during the course of the negotiations, and the deals survived 10 price extensions from the US side. 

At the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) level, the Apache deal was worth Rs 3,095 crore and the Chinook contract Rs 2,468 crore. Taken together, the price was Rs 5,563 crore or less than $1 billion. But that was years ago.

Used extensively in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, both platforms defeated commercial competition from Russia, which pitched its Mi-28N Night Hunter and Mi-26T2 heavy-lift copters. The IAF currently operates two squadrons of Mi-35 attack helicopters — both in the western sectors.

The Apache Longbow helicopters have better crash survivability, which was demonstrated to the IAF during trials. Both pilot and gunner have the benefit of advanced night-vision sensors.

The Longbow radar is located on top of the main rotor, allowing far better detection capability in comparison with other platforms, due to which the gunship can track up to 128 targets in less than a minute and engage with 16 targets. Chinooks, on the other hand, have 4.5-tonne capacity and would be of help to the IAF for quick mobilisation of forces.
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