New York: The Indian government is “signaling” that it is likely to award a $1.5 billion contract to America’s Boeing for 22 AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters for the Indian air force, said a US report.
Although the Russian Mi-28N Night Hunter was offered at a flyaway cost of $600 million, India is understood to have rejected the Russian offer mostly on technical grounds, leaving the American AH-64D manufactured by Boeing as the sole bidder.
“The US Army rotorcraft, which is said to have outperformed the rival Russian Mi-28N Night Hunter in tests, was strongly recommended by the Indian Air Force earlier this year as its choice following trials in 2010,” reported “Aviation Week.”
According to defense experts, India has been dragging its feet in ordering the US helicopter as sole bidder programs are extensively regulated under new anti-corruption policies. The Indian Air Force and Boeing are waiting on the Cabinet Committee on Security to give the final approval.
An IAF trial team member, told “Aviation Week,” that the “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.”
Boeing declined to get drawn into the dogfight between the Apache and the Russian Night Hunter telling Firstpost the Indian defense ministry had not commented on the outcome of the competition.
Still, Boeing has friends in high places including the US government pressing its case. Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary for Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, told the Defense Trade Advisory Group on Wednesday that, “I have advocated for our tenders in the Attack Helicopter and Heavy Lift Helicopter competitions. We are hopeful that both will be selected.”
Defense experts said selecting the Apache AH-64D will also pave the way for India to receive the AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow anti-tank guided missile for the first time. “The failure of the Russian helicopter also means a setback for the two companies counting on providing the weapons for the helicopter – European MBDA Missile Systems and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems,” said defense technology portal “Defense Update.” Both the firms competed on supplying the missiles for the Russian helicopters.
India is looking to spend over $50 billion over the next five years to modernise its army with 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’s defense budget, which is roughly $32 billion for the year ending 31 March, has increased 151 percent in the past decade. Given the hostile neighbourhood that India is wedged in, the government expects military spending to grow at about 8.33 percent annually in the coming years.