The Apache deal for the Army may be signed early 2020

The Apache deal for the Army may be signed early 2020

Representative image.

India and USA are likely to sign an agreement in a month or two on the purchase of six Apache armed helicopters for the Army, the first of which would join the service in 2022.

“The file on the Apache is with the Cabinet Committee on Security now. A decision is expected any time now and the deal may happen early next year. The first helicopter will join the service in 2022,” top sources in the Defence Ministry said on Friday.

In August 2017, the defence ministry cleared the purchase of six Boeing-made Apache-64E helicopters at a cost of Rs 4,168 crore ($930 million) from the USA for the Indian Army, that wanted an expansion of its own air assets to support the ground troops. A year later, the deal received sanctions from the US State Department and Pentagon.

These six choppers would be in addition to the 22 similar Apache helicopters that India purchased from the USA in 2015, for the Indian Air Force. The first batch of eight gunships was inducted into the IAF at Pathankot in September.

The armed choppers, for a long time, was a bone of contention between the IAF and Army, as both wanted ownership of such platforms. The Army's planned to use them to support their ground operations while the IAF doggedly objected to the idea.

Former IAF chief N A K Browne publicly stated that the could not allow “little air forces doing things of their own,” citing a 1986 official document on how the Army and IAF would use their air assets.

Within months, the then Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh clarified that the defence ministry agreed to allow the Army to raise its own fleet of attack helicopters in the future.

Next year, the Army is also likely to ink agreements with two Indian companies to buy two different types of howitzer guns, besides going full steam in procuring the Dhanush or desi Bofors guns from the Ordnance Factory Board.