The U.S. State Department has approved a potential direct commercial sale of six additional Boeing AH-64E Apache heavy attack helicopters to India for an estimated cost of $930 million, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a June 12 statement.
DSCA is the lead agency within the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for arms sales to U.S. allies and partner nations. The agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on June 12. The arms deal is still subject to congressional approval.
The deal includes the sale of 180 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 90 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire II missiles, 200 Stinger Block I-92H missiles, next to 30mm cannons and ammunition. The United States will also offer logistical support services and training. The six additional AH-64Es are intended for service in the Indian Army’s Aviation Corps (AAC) and expected to be delivered by 2020.
The Indian Ministry of Defense placed an initial order in 2015 for 22 AH-64Es and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The 2015 contract included a clause for a follow-on option of 11 additional AH-64Es and seven Chinooks at a fixed price agreed upon in 2013 and India issued a so-called Letter of Request to the U.S. government for the purchase of six more AH-64E gunships in February.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of an important partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South Asia,” the June 12 DSCA release notes.
Additionally, the sale “will strengthen India’s ability to defend its homeland and deter regional threats. This support for the AH-64E will provide an increase in India’s defensive capability to counter ground-armored threats and modernize its armed forces.” The purchase is most likely to support the realization of India’s unofficial so-called Cold Start Doctrine of limited conventional war with Pakistan.
The AH-64E acquisition program has showcased a deep-seated interservice rivalry between the AAC and the Indian Air Force. “For a number of years, the Indian Army has been engaged in a tug of war with the Indian Air Force over who should operate this future fleet of Apache gunships,” I explained. “The Army initially asked for the gunships to be inducted into its ranks, or for the Air Force to at least share the helicopters with the ground forces.”
For now it appears that the AAC has won the bureaucratic battle and will operate its separate AH-64E squadrons. Overall, the AAC intends to induct 39 AH-64E helicopter gunships divided up into three squadrons.