The Indian Air Force is looking forward to use Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters which are being acquired as part of a follow-on order to the deal India signed for 22 Apaches and 15 Chinook heavy-lifters.
However, the row that has been ongoing for over six years between the Indian Army Aviation Corps (AAC) and IAF concerning who will operate the attack helicopters may be simmering again. The Ministry of Defense assigned ownership, operation and maintenance of attack helicopters to the AAC in November 2012, but the current status remains elusive. The Indian Amy Chief, Bipin Rawat, accepted when talking to AIN on January 10 that the IAF will get their Apaches first, and “ours will follow, as we are hooked on to them.”
He acknowledged that “The major issue being addressed is who should finally control the helicopters,” adding that the two services are reaching “a consensus on the role and charter for which we are inducting the Apache”. Calling the Apache a “tank in the air,” Rawat commented that, “we feel in the army that the Apache is a tank-killer and should support and be grouped with the strike/attack formation,” to provide support for tanks, infantry and combat vehicles, “in a three-dimensional approach.”
In 2012, then-Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne had commented on the tussle that “the country doesn’t need small air forces.” He had said that the “integration model around the world is working … we can’t have these little air forces growing and doing their own thing.” An army official remarked: “In years to come, the IAF will be ensconced in the strategic domain of air power and heavy-lift, while the army will tend to the tactical needs of the environment … the domains are not in conflict but in concert.”
Meanwhile, Rawat expressed satisfaction over the Weapon System Integrated (WSI) Mk-IV variant of the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter, called the Rudra, the first armed helicopter that has been produced in India. He said timelines had been given to the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) on carrying out successful trials for the rockets and missiles that had faced some safety issues for the Rudra.
“An interim import will be done to bridge the gap if they cannot reach the timelines,” he told AIN. On the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) that first flew in 2010, Rawat added: “It is the right kind of machine we need for our services. We should take a call on it at the Bangalore Air Show in February.” Developer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd said, “orders for 15 LCHs were in advanced stages.”
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