“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 defense ministry official, told the Indian media.
Defense experts say selecting the Apache AH-64D will also pave the way for India to receive sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles for the first time. The $1.4 billion deal will include advanced AN/APG-78 fire control radars for the Apaches as well as Hellfire anti-tank and 245 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to be delivered to India.
Mark Kronenberg, Boeing’s vice-president for international development, had earlier confirmed on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow, that the Apache was the “last man standing” in India and Boeing is the sole bidder for the contract. Boeing’s Apache beat out the Russian Mi-28N Night Hunter for the deal by outscoring it on more than 20 technical points.
“The Apache scored consistently over Mi-28 in several key operational criteria. Broadly, these fell under the categories of electronic warfare, survivability, situational awareness in the cockpit, night-fighting capabilities, sensor efficacy and weapons. The helicopter was also found to be far more maneuverable. We worked directly with Boeing and the US Army to test this helicopter,” an IAF trial team member, earlier told Aviation Week.
According to the Russian media, Russia is also facing stiff US competition in a tender to supply 15 heavy-lift helicopters to the Indian forces. Russia is offering its Mil Mi-26, the world’s largest rotary-wing machine, while Boeing is proposing its veteran CH-47 Chinook.
India is looking to spend over $50 billion over the next five years to modernise its army and largely Soviet-era equipment. India had long focused its military planning on Pakistan, and Pakistan-based militants, but it is now growing more concerned about feuding with China over the disputed Sino-Indian border, where China claims large tracts of Arunachal Pradesh.
India, traditionally one of Russia’s core customers for arms, has been making a conscious effort to diversify the sourcing of weapon systems. According to defense experts, US military sales to India have increased, as have joint training missions, as the US has offered a more robust military-to-military relationship. The US has understood that India is not interested in a merely mercenary and opportunistic defense sales relationship.
India and the US want to eventually move beyond a seller-buyer relationship to substantial co-production and eventually, high-technology joint research and development of weapons.
“It’s a huge market and also a great opportunity for building a long term relationship with the defense industry. India will no longer be satisfied with a buyer/seller or patron/client type of arrangement. It is expected that the future of defense acquisitions will emphasize on transfer of technology as well as joint research and development of weapon systems,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B.Carter recently confided to the Confederation of Indian Industry.
India purchased 80 percent of its $12.7 billion in arms from Russia during 2007-2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). But the US has steadily scored a string of big-ticket deals over the last five years.
The first of the 10 US-made Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft ordered last year will be delivered to the Indian Air Force in June next year. India is forking over $4.1 billion (Rs 22,960 crore) to buy the US Air Force’s workhorse used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan, making it the largest defense contract to have been signed by the two governments.
Last year, India purchased an amphibious transport vessel, the USS Trenton (re-christened INS Jalashwa), for nearly $50 million with six-UH-3H helicopters to operate alongside, costing another $49 million.
It also bought Harpoon anti-submarine missiles under a package worth $200 million, and long-range acoustic devices, modern hull penetrating periscopes, C-130J transport aircraft and sensor-fused weapons. It has also placed a $2.1 billion order for eight P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and quick reaction team boats from the US.