New Delhi: After several years of wrangling, the Indian Army and Indian Air Force (IAF) are both likely to operate the Apache multi-role attack helicopters.
The Army, which has long pitched for its own dedicated fleet of attack helicopters, is likely to get its way through, sources said. The issue was discussed by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley last week.
The Army had initially asked for 22 attack helicopters to be transferred to its custody, which was rejected by the Air Force. The IAF has strongly opposed the creation of a separate mini-Air wing by the Army, which the former felt would reduce its role.
“The Army will get 11 Apache helicopters, while the original order of 22 helicopters will be with the IAF. It will go through,” a senior officer told The Hindu on Monday.
Deal with U.S. :
For this, India will exercise the optional clause in the original deal signed with the U.S. in November 2015. Under a $3-billion deal, India has contracted 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters through the Foreign Military Sales program.
This means that both the services would operate several helicopter types which would mean duplication of efforts for logistics, maintenance and support.
Air Vice-Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies, noted that the IAF would always have a need for attack helicopters. “While there is no doubt that there would be duplication of maintenance and logistics, there are specific IAF roles like Special Heli-borne Missions and Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR).”
He also noted that the IAF was best suited for CSAR as it had a range of aircraft at its disposal.
Long-pending demand :
The Army has for long pitched for its own dedicated attack helicopter fleet integrated with its strike corps and has recently expressed the desire to have 39 Apaches. Presently, India operates a mix of Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters which are with the IAF.
The Army has already placed a firm order for 114 indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), which is in an advanced stage of induction, and has also ordered Rudra helicopters, the weaponised variant of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). The Air Force too ordered the Rudra and 65 LCH.
The Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter is the most advanced multi-role heavy attack helicopter in the world.