The Cabinet Committee on Security today approved the purchase of Boeing’s Apache and Chinook helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in a deal worth around $2.5 billion. The deal for 22 Apache attack and 15 heavy lift Chinook helicopters with the United States coincides with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US starting tomorrow. It is the single biggest defence contract signed in the first 16 months of the NDA government.
The contract is believed to have an option for follow-on orders for 11 more Apaches and four extra Chinooks. The deal for Apache is in two parts: one Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) contract will be signed with Boeing for the attack helicopter, while another will be a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement with the US government for its weapons, radars and electronic warfare equipment. The Chinook, which was selected after extensive trials in 2012, is being acquired as a DCS deal.
The 22 Apache helicopters will replace IAF’s Mi-35 attack helicopters and will be armed with Hellfire missiles. Indian Army had also demanded 39 Apache helicopters for its aviation corps, which was approved by the UPA government, after army’s bitter and long-running dispute with the IAF for control of attack helicopters. These attack helicopters were to be deployed by the army as part of its three Strike Corps and for the new mountain strike corps being raised for China border. The army’s requirements could be met by signing a follow up deal with Boeing and the US government.
The Chinooks, which will replace the IAF’s ageing Mi-26 fleet, will be used for heli-lifting of heavy military equipment, including special artillery guns and supplies, to inhospitable areas of the North and the North-East.
This deal has been pending since pending since 2013, when cost negotiations had taken place, and Boeing had reportedly warned the defence ministry that it could not hold to those prices beyond September. Boeing had already given 10 price extensions and the last extension for a month was given on the request of the Indian government.
These helicopters are likely to be delivered within five years. The first helicopter is expected to enter the IAF within three years. The usual practice is for the defence ministry to pay 15 per cent of the negotiated value at the time of signing the contract, while the balance payments are made in accordance with the delivery schedule.