“The MoD Finance had red-flagged the proposal for 11 [helicopters]. They said if these helicopters go to the Army, it will be a duplication of assets as the Indian Air Force is already in the process of acquiring 22 of them,” a senior defence source said.
Last week, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, had approved the procurement of six Apache helicopters along with associated equipment at a cost of ?4,168 crore.
These would be procured under optional clause in the $3-billion deal signed with Boeing of the U.S. in November 2015 for 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.
The optional clause is for 11 helicopters, which would be available at the same price. However, the validity of the clause expires next month. “MoD Finance was not in favour of going for the option clause,” the source added.
The Army has for long pitched for its own dedicated attack helicopter fleet integrated with its Strike Corps and has expressed a need for 39 Apaches. It had even sparred with the Air Force for control of the 22 helicopters which was rejected by the government. However, the government had stated that future acquisitions would go to the Army.
Speaking at July 21 meeting of the Services Capital Acquisition Categorisation Higher Committee (SCAPCHC), a high-level body with service representatives, the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff had said the optional clause for 11 helicopters should be exercised as the “capability is required by the nation”.
Push for more copters
The Army had pushed for the 11 helicopters as they can be procured quickly, but the Ministry has cleared only six. Army sources said they would continue to push for more helicopters. “After next month, any negotiations would begin afresh and there would be a price escalation,” another source said.
Presently, India operates a mix of Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters which are with the IAF. The Boeing-built AH-64E Apache helicopter is the most advanced, multi-role, heavy attack helicopter in the world.
Source:- The Hindu
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