With 6 Apaches, Indian Army To Get 1st Attack Helos

Six AH-64E Apache Longbow helicopters will be the first purpose-built attack helicopters in service with the Indian Army. On the back of a long-winded turf battle between the Indian Air Force and Army over which service will operate attack helicopters, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) today cleared the purchase of six Apaches for the latter, an expected decision, though analysts are surprised the number is so tentatively small. The six will be follow-on airframes on identical terms to the 22 Apaches contracted in September 2015 for the IAF.

The larger numbers of Apache helicopters inbound for India were detailed here on Livefist last November. The six Apaches cleared by the MoD’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) today will be from the 11 airframe options as part of the 2015 IAF deal on a 2009 price lock. The final airframe count, if Boeing’s projections work out, will be 33 Apaches with the IAF and 28 with the Indian Army for a total fleet strength of 61 choppers. Indian firm Tata builds Apache fuselages in Hyderabad, with the first rolling out next year.

With today’s clearance of six additional helos, it remains unclear when India will make a decision on additional numbers. What is reasonably certain is that six Apaches cleared for the Indian Army today comprises only the first of what will be a series of orders. Six helicopters comprise barely a flight — far too few to justify the elaborate battlefield/battlefield support imperatives the Indian Army used to wrest armoured helo command and control from the IAF a few years ago. IAF pilots currently fly India’s dwindling fleet of Mi-35 heavy attack helicopters, though they function under Army command and control. The Army wishes for the new Apaches to be fully under its aviation corps with no participation from the IAF.

The supply of Apaches to both the IAF and Army does, of course, present a situation that will only intensify going forward. For one thing, the separation of armoured helo roles isn’t a hard separation yet. While the Indian Army is now the principal customer of India’s HAL Rudra armed helicopter, it is the IAF that will launch the Light Combat Helicopter, India’s first purpose-built attack helo. How these two types settle into the overall matrix of armed rotorcraft in service remains unclear.

6 thoughts on “With 6 Apaches, Indian Army To Get 1st Attack Helos”

  1. why army requirements are getting a second rate consideration. IAF should concentrate on building it’s dwindling squadrons and not play spoil sport with army decision to get air independent

  2. What a silly decision! A force of 6 attack helicopters will help the army in what way? Will the army deploy 3 against China and 3 against Pakistan? What can such a small number do in a war? Also, one can only imagine the large investment for supporting 6 helicopters.

    The army has a history of rejecting domestic systems over foreign. The lethal Arjun left to rot is one such example. The Arjun rots while derelict T-72 that cannot come close to the Arjun are sent into battle. IA’s refusal to invest in the Arjun is even more painful to observe after its T-90s made India’s mechanized forces a laughing stock during the Tank Biathlon in Russia.

    Imagine a force of 60 LCH in the army’s hands – now that would be something the enemy would be scared of. A force of 6 helicopters is not for war but for keeping in museums to show off (not our forces but our purchasing power).

    Mera Bharat Mahaan!

    1. Vivek Khanna: “The army has a history of rejecting domestic systems over foreign.”

      Oohhhhh… another armchair expert who has is completely wrong.

      The India Army has whole heatedly adopted a number of indigenous weapon systems. The Rudra, ALH, Brahmos, Pinaka, Prithvi and multiple Radar systems are just a few of them. On the horizon are new ones like Dhanush and LCH (and yes, the Army has thrown its weight behind it). Arjun is one of the few examples of a locally developed system not finding complete acceptance, and there is very good reason for it, but then do you really want to know?

  3. What a proud moment…….getting to use a world class product at the expense of the Indian taxpayers? What happened to the Light Combat Helicopter? Did somebody came up with a great excuse to junk that as well.

    1. Dear Raket Raja, the two Helicopters are in a completely different class. Btw, LCH is still being developed, so no chance of inducting it yet.

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