The Trump administration has approved a deal to sell six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to India for USD 930 million as well as Hellfire and Stinger missiles that will bolster country’s defence arsenal. The Pentagon’s notification to the Congress comes ahead of the first 2+2 dialogue between India and the US next month in Washington DC.
Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are slated to meet their American counterparts Mike Pompeo and James Mattis in the strategic dialogue.
The AH-64 Apache is a multi-role combat helicopter and is used by the US Army and a number of international defence forces. The contract also includes fire control radars; Hellfire Longbow missiles; Stinger Block I-92H missiles; night vision sensors and inertial navigation systems.
In its notification to the Congress, the Pentagon said, “This will strengthen India’s ability to defend its homeland and deter regional threats.”
“This support for the AH-64E will provide an increase in India’s defensive capability to counter ground-armored threats and modernise its armed forces. India will have no difficulty absorbing the helicopters and support equipment into its armed forces,” the Pentagon said.
“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” it said.
A formal announcement is expected to be made shortly. The lead contractors are US arms, aviations and engineering giants Lockheed Martin, General Electric and Raytheon. Bilateral defence trade between India and the United States has risen from near zero to USD 15 billion since 2008.
US government-to-government sales to India in recent years have included C-17 transport aircraft, 155 mm Light-Weight Towed Howitzers, UGM-84L Harpoon missiles, Support for C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) support equipment.
In addition to these foreign military sales (FMS) cases valued at USD 1.62 billion, India has purchased USD 2.82 billion in defence articles since 2013 via the Direct Commercial Sales process. These include aircraft, gas turbine engines, and electronics, among other categories of major defence articles.
In 2016, India was also awarded the status of a US Major Defence Partner, which allows India to receive license-free access to a wide range of military and dual-use technologies that are regulated by the Department of Commerce.
The two countries also agreed to an updated ten-year Defence Framework Agreement in June 2015 to guide and expand their bilateral defence and strategic partnership until 2025.
(With inputs from Agencies)