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October 17, 2012

‘Mini-air force’ to see big-ticket investment

With the government accepting the Army's demand of owning and operating attack helicopters, it will be spending several crores to build the 'mini air force'.
The Army received a letter from the ministry of defence mentioning that all 'future procurements' of attack helicopters will be done by the force. “It means that in all probability, the 22 Boeing Apache AH-64D helicopters to be procured for $1.4 billion will go to the Indian Army,” a senior Army officer said on conditions of anonymity.
The Defence Aquisition Council (DAC) has given an 'in principle' approval for the attack helicopters for the Army. The decision to let the Army operate attack helicopters was taken on Thursday despite the opposition from the Indian Air Force (IAF) over 'duplication of assets'. “The Indian Army's request for a 'mini air force' was actually referred to the NSA who favoured the army's request,” a source told FE.
Just last week, IAF chief NAK Browne had said: “The 22 heavy-duty Boeing's AH-64 D Apache Longbow helicopters will be joining the air force.” In fact, Browne had reacted sharply to the question of the Army demanding air assets for itself as “duplication of assets”. “We cannot afford to have our own little air forces. Tomorrow the Coast Guard will ask for submarines will we give it to them?”
He had also revealed that in 2011, the IAF has conceded the Army’s demand for attack helicopters but the latter also wanted medium-lift helicopters and it was then that the Air Force put its foot down.
The procurement of the Apache helicopters is currently in the contract negotiation stage.
According to sources, the ministry of defence has given greater role to the Army in operating the medium-lift helicopters that are now being operated by the IAF, meaning that the tasks of the Army will be given priority. Though the Army will soon get its first indigenous ‘Rudra’ helicopter, it has also put out a request for 10 squadrons of attack helicopters.

The Indian Express

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