India is getting ready to order 22 heavy-duty Apache helicopters for around $1.4 billion, in what will be yet another big defence deal to be bagged by the US.
The US has already made military sales worth over $8 billion to India over the last few years, despite it having lost out to France in the almost $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project to supply 126 fighters to IAF, which is in the final commercial negotiations stage.
In the battle for the attack helicopters, Boeing's AH-64D Apache Longbow met all ASQRs (air staff qualitative requirements) during the extensive field trials conducted by the IAF, while the Russian Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant's Mi-28 Havoc failed to pass muster.
"It's just a matter of time before the contract is inked for the Apaches after final commercial negotiations. Most of the hurdles have been cleared,'' a defence ministry official said. The US and Russia are also locked in battle to supply 15 heavy-lift helicopters to IAF, with the Boeing-manufactured Chinooks pitted against the Russian Mi-26 choppers.
As first reported by TOI earlier, Indian armed forces are looking to induct as many as 900 helicopters in the coming decade, including 384 light-utility and observation, 90 naval multi-role, 65 light combat, 22 heavy-duty attack, 139 medium-lift and 15 heavy-lift, among others, many of them from abroad.
The impending $1.4 billion contract for the 22 Apaches will also include the supply of 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire-II missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles and 12 AN/APG-78 fire-control radars, as per the Barack Obama administration's notification to the US Congress.
Among the other military aviation deals already bagged by the US are the $4.1 billion contract for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft, $2.1 billion for eight P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and $962 million for six C-130J 'Super Hercules'' planes. Negotiations are now being finalized for acquiring six more C-130J as well as four more P-8I aircraft.
US deputy secretary of defence Ashton B Carter, on his recent visit to India, had stressed that Washington wanted to be New Delhi's "highest quality and most trusted long-term supplier of technology''. India had emerged as the second-largest FMS (foreign military sales) customer of the US in 2011 with imports worth $4.5 billion, he added.
Times of India