Army Avi­a­tion

6 to In­dian Army


THE AVI­A­TION WING OF the In­dian Army got a big com­bat boost on 1Au­gust 17 with the de­ci­sion of the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil of the Min­istry of De­fence to ac­cept the rec­om­men­da­tion of the Army Head­quar­ters for ac­quir­ing six iconic AH64E Apache at­tack he­li­copters. Though the Army Avi­a­tion Corps (AAC) has been pitch­ing for full three squadrons of 39 Apaches since the last few years, the de­ci­sion to pro­vide only six Apaches can only be termed as the be­gin­ning of the am­bi­tious mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme of the Army Avi­a­tion to pro­vide a com­bat­ive edge to the Corps. The last ma­jor step to pro­vide teeth to the avi­a­tion wing was taken in 2013 when the weaponised ver­sion of the Ad­vanced Light He­li­copter (ALH) Weapon Sys­tems In­te­grated (WSI) nick­named Ru­dra MkIV was in­ducted. These Apaches would be ac­quired un­der the For­eign Mil­i­tary Sales (FMS) pro­gramme of the US State De­part­ment. Ear­lier the MoD had okayed the $3.1 bil­lion con­tract for ac­quir­ing 22 Apache He­li­copters and 15 Chi­nook Heavy Lift He­li­copters in 2015 from Boe­ing for the In­dian Air Force, which will start re­ceiv­ing the de­liv­er­ies from 2019. This fresh or­der of six Apaches will be is­sued as a fol­low on op­tion to the IAF con­tract. The Army had ear­lier re­quested the MoD to pro­vide them with at least 11 Apaches as a fol­low on con­tract.

The In­dian Air Force had long re­sisted the move to pro­vide com­bat he­li­copters to Army Avi­a­tion. But when me­dia re­ports said that IAF had ob­jected to the Army get­ting the Apaches, the IAF clar­i­fied that it has never op­posed or ob­jected to the pro­cure­ment of any plat­form by the In­dian Army. Ac­cord­ing to IAF, the force is in process of re­plac­ing its MI-25/35 at­tack he­li­copters with 22 AH64E Apache he­li­copters. The fol­low on clause has been ex­er­cised by the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia with 6 he­li­copters for the Army. The IAF has no ob­jec­tion to any in­ter­nal re­struc­tur­ing/reequip­ping by the Army as long as it doesn’t pre­sup­pose trans­fer of as­sets of IAF or “im­pinge upon its enun­ci­ated role.”

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to sources the MoD suc­cumbed to the pres­sures from the Army Head­quar­ters and made a cru­cial de­ci­sion that fu­ture ac­qui­si­tions of at­tack he­li­copters will be for In­dian Army Avi­a­tion. The MoD had ac­cepted Army’s view that the at­tack he­li­copters would be more rel­e­vant to op­er­ate in con­junc­tion with the ground forces the In­dian Army Avi­a­tion must have con­trol over the at­tack he­li­copter fleet. Since the In­dian Air Force would also be ac­quir­ing these at­tack he­li­copters the is­sue of du­pli­ca­tion of fleets has been brushed aside. The man­darins in South Block de­cided, that to have bet­ter co­or­di­na­tion amongst the ground and avi­a­tion forces for syn­chro­nised at­tack plans, the Army must have their own com­bat avi­a­tion sup­port also. In com­bat sit­u­a­tion the Army wants its own pilots to be in com­mand of the at­tack he­li­copters to have ef­fec­tive com­mand and con­trol. The Apaches are also likely to be al­lot­ted to the moun­tain di­vi­sions be­ing raised along the Line of Ac­tual Con­trol with China, where they are ex­pected to over­power the en­emy forces on the moun­tain­ous ter­rain.

Hence af­ter the ini­tial in­duc­tion of six he­li­copters, path has been cleared for fur­ther arm­ing of the army avi­a­tion with the Apaches, which can play a very dev­as­tat­ing role against the en­emy ground forces. With the Apaches and the LCH, the In­dian Army will be able to ef­fec­tively counter the en­emy forces on the icy heights of Hi­malayas. Hence, the Army has suc­cess­fully won the sup­port of Arun Jait­ley headed De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil to equip its three pri­mary strike corps geared for rapid ar­moured ad­vance into the en­emy con­trolled area. The Army con­vinced the de­ci­sion mak­ers that it should have to­tal com­mand and con­trol over tac­ti­cal air as­sets for rapid de­ploy­ment along with its strike corps, based at Mathura (1 Corps), Am­bala (2 Corps) and Bhopal (21 Corps). The Apaches with the In­dian Air Force would have to fo­cus more on its larger strate­gic role. How­ever, sources in the min­istry said that in the event of war, only six AAC Apaches would not suf­fice, hence the IAF would have to han­dover its com­bat he­li­copter fleet un­der the full com­mand of the lo­cal army com­man­der to the AAC, so as to have com­plete co­or­di­nated ground war plan ef­fec­tively ex­e­cuted. Presently the IAF has only two age­ing squadrons of Rus­sian Mi-25/35 com­bat he­li­copters. The Army Avi­a­tion wing of the Army will also be in­ducted with 80 Ru­dra He­li­copters com­pris­ing of eight squadrons. As Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Limited has al­ready de­vel­oped the in­dige­nous Light Com­bat He­li­copter (LCH), Army Avi­a­tion will also be equipped with 114 of them as and when HAL starts pro­duc­ing them. Both Dhruv and LCH can play a sig­nif­i­cant role in High Al­ti­tude War­fare, as they will have good fire­power and can also be utilised in wide range of op­er­a­tions such as anti tank war­fare, close air sup­port, re­con­nais­sance and troop trans­port. Both can ef­fec­tively chal­lenge the en­emy tar­gets in a bat­tle­field sce­nario against tanks and ar­tillery. Apaches have been de­scribed as the most dreaded at­tack he­li­copters of the world as it can track up to 128 tar­gets a minute and pri­ori­tise its neu­tral­i­sa­tion of threats.

Like the 22 Apaches or­dered for the In­dian Air Force, the six Apaches for the Army Avi­a­tion Corps will also be armed with Hell­fire and Stinger mis­siles be­sides spares and main­te­nance sup­port with a to­tal pack­age cost of ` 4,168 crore. For the 22 Apaches , the IAF would be re­ceiv­ing 812 AGM-114L-3 Hell­fire Long­bow mis­siles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hell­fire-II mis­siles, 245 Stinger Block I- 92H mis­siles and 12 AN/ APG-78 fire con­trol radars. In case of war and com­bat re­quire­ments, the IAF will have to trans­fer these of­fen­sive as­sets to the Army for a co­or­di­nated strike on the en­emy bases.


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