Slated to be delivered starting in 2020, the AAC’s helicopters follow the Indian Air Force’s 2015 order of 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from US defense manufacturer Boeing. There was a clause in the contract for these aircraft for a follow-on order of seven Chinooks and 11 Apaches at a fixed price.
The Indian Army and Air Force have been tussling over which branch will operate the future Apache gunship fleet. The Air Force has rejected the Army’s proposals to share the aircraft with ground forces and the Army’s initial request to take control of the helicopters, according to the Diplomat.
The AAC appears to have emerged victorious with Friday’s announcement, as it seeks to purchase and operate 39 AH-64E helicopters in total that will be broken up into three squadrons.
It is expected that the helicopters will be stationed near India’s borders with Pakistan and China, and in the event of a conflict could be used to destroy enemy armored vehicles and tanks.
Operated by a two-person crew, the AH-64E is the most advanced helicopter gunship variant, and features Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
The helicopter can also accommodate up to 16 AGM-114L Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and comes equipped with a M230 30-millimeter chain gun that can fire up to 625 high-explosive dual-purpose rounds per minute.
The sale was brokered through the Defence Acquisition Council, headed by Defense Minister Arun Jaitley, and included an order for gas turbine engines for two ships currently being built in Russia.