The previous UPA-2 government had, in its last few days in office in May this year, approved the proposed acquisition of 39 more Apache AH-64D Block-III attack helicopters from US aviation giant Boeing for the Indian Army and formation of three squadrons of these helicopters in the Army, defence sources have said.
Currently, the acquisition process for 22 Apache attack helicopters from Boeing is on for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and is understood to be in contract negotiation stage. The acceptance of necessity (AoN) cost for the acquisition of the 22 Apache attack helicopters for the IAF was `3,094 crores. But the proposed acquisition of 39 more of these helicopters for the Army will mean more deals with the US aviation giant.
The previous UPA-2 government had decided in October, 2012 that all future acquisitions of attack helicopters — after the ongoing acquisition process for 22 Apache helicopters — would be for the Army instead of the IAF. But the IAF will get the 22 Apache helicopters for which the acquisition process is on. This makes it clear that there would be follow-on orders for 39 more helicopters after this, for the Army.
The Army-IAF had earlier been involved in a spat over the issue before the UPA-2 government had intervened on the matter and resolved it in 2012.
The Army had wanted attack copters of its own to provide aerial support for its tanks, since it has validated the concept of constituting aviation brigades for this purpose. The Army’s logic is that it needs attack helicopters of its own to swiftly attack enemy tanks in a battle-scenario without having to wait for the IAF response.
The IAF had earlier staunchly opposed the Army’s demand to acquire both medium-lift and attack helicopters together, with the previous IAF chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne (Retd.) saying during his tenure as IAF chief that one could not agree to these “little air forces” (of the Army) coming up. The IAF currently operates Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopter units.
Current Army Chief Gen. Bikram Singh had said in October, 2012, “Yes, we (the Army) are getting attack helicopters. It is in national interest.”