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US set to bag IAF Apache order

New Delhi, Oct. 29: The US looks set to bag a $1.4-billion order to equip the Indian Air Force with 22 AH64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters beating its Russian rival.

Although the IAF and the defence ministry have not confirmed it, Russian news agency Ria-Novosti and Russian newspaper The Pravda have quoted Indian defence officials from Moscow as saying that the Mil Mi-28N Night Hunter has lost out in the race.

“We have completed the trials and have given the test results to the ministry of defence. Now it is up to the government to decide,” the air force spokesperson said. A defence ministry official said the government “will take a decision shortly”.

From Moscow, the Russian agencies said the Mil Mi-28 was beaten by the Boeing-built Apache on 20 counts. The Apache was easily the most frequently used attack helicopter in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In December last year, the Pentagon’s Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified the US Congress on a possible sale of the helicopters and its engines, equipment, weapons, logistics and training package to India.

The entire deal is likely to involve a direct commercial sale of the helicopter by the firm (Boeing) to India and a foreign military sale (a government-to-government transaction) of 50 T700-GE-701D engines, 12 An/APG-78 Fire Control Radars, 12 AN/APR-48A Radar Frequency Interferometers, 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellifire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire-11 missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles and 23 modernised target acquisition designation sight/pilot night vision sensors, rockets, training and dummy missiles, 30mm ammunition and other logistic supplies.

For the US, that has lost out in the possible $12-billion order for 126 multi-role fighter aircraft to the IAF, the contract for the Apaches will be some compensation. The air force is likely to place a follow-on order for 22 more attack helicopters (taking the total to 44).

For Boeing, this would be the third major military contract from India after the orders for eight P8I Poseidon maritime surveillance planes for the navy and 10 C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters for the IAF.

For Russia, the loss of the attack helicopter order would be a further sign of Indian underconfidence in Russian military hardware that still makes up nearly 20 per cent of the Indian arsenal.

The new attack helicopters will part-replace and part-reinforce the two squadrons of Russian-origin Mi-28 and Mi-35 helicopters.

Next week, the Indian government is likely to open the financial bids for the IAF’s multi-role fighter aircraft competition.Only two aircraft have made the cut for the final round: the Eurofighter Typhoon (by a four-nation European consortium) and the French Rafale (made by Dassault Aviation).

The US and Russia have both lost out in that competition as has Sweden.

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