Thursday, January 20, 2011
US now sets eye on $1.4bn contract for attack copter deal
NEW DELHI: Having already bagged some mega defence deals, the US now seems quite smug about cornering an even greater share of the lucrative Indian arms market despite the strong presence here of traditional military suppliers like Russia and Israel.
The growing American confidence can be gauged from the fact that though the field trial evaluation process for acquiring 22 heavy-duty attack helicopters for IAF is still in progress, the US Congress has already been notified by the Obama administration about the impending $1.4 billion contract.
Interestingly, the final battle for the attack helicopters or gunships is now down to just the two erstwhile Cold War rivals, US and Russia, with Boeing's AH-64D Apache Longbow pitted against the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant's Mi-28 Havoc.
"We are still evaluating the two helicopters (Apache and Havoc) in contention...the final selection will take some time,'' said a senior IAF officer.
But that has not stopped the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) from notifying its Congress, even though it acknowledges India ''is yet to select the Boeing-US Army proposal... This notification is being made in advance so that, in the event that the proposal is selected, the US may move as quickly as possible to implement the sale."
The notification even lists out what India ''will request'' as part of the ''complete package'' worth around $1.4 billion. Apart from the 22 Apaches, it includes 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire-II missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles, 12 AN/APG-78 fire-control radars and the like.
Holding the "proposed sale" will strengthen the Indo-US strategic relationship, the notification says the Apaches "will improve India's capability to strengthen its homeland defence and deter regional threats".