New Delhi: The Indian Army is gearing up to induct the first lot of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from February 2024 onwards and will be deployed in the desert sector, while the bigger contract for 156 indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), 90 for the Army and 66 for the Indian Air Force, estimated to cost Rs 45,000 crore, is expected to be taken up by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) next week.
“The first Apache attack helicopter is scheduled to be delivered in February 2024. As part of the deal, six pilots and 24 technicians were trained by Boeing in the US Delivery of all six Apaches would be completed by April 2024,” a defence source said. The DAC is expected to meet next week when the case for the 156 LCH will be taken up for consideration, sources independently stated.
The Army Aviation, which has so far operated utility helicopters, inducted its first dedicated attack helicopter with the LCH and the first squadron, 351 Army Aviation, was moved to Missamari, Assam in the eastern sector near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) last November, according to media reports.
The Cabinet Committee had given sanction for the procurement of 39 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the US. Following this, the IAF had inducted 22 Apaches under a deal signed in September 2015 following which the government has decided any further Apache procurements would go to the Army. In line with this, India signed a deal for six more Apaches, for the Army, at a cost of around $800 million in February 2020. There is a slight delay in deliveries of the Apaches due to the COVID pandemic.
While the Army has been pushing the case for 11 more Apaches, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) recently ordered a study on the number of armoured helicopters required which is expected to commence end-November or early-December. So, officials said, the call on additional Apaches would be taken once the study was complete. The Army currently operates 75 Rudra, the armed version of the Advanced Light Helicopter.