The 1.3-million strong Army had earlier sought the government's approval for acquisition of 11 Apache helicopters from the US as "a follow-on contract" to the Rs 13,952 crore deal inked for 22 such choppers for the IAF in September 2015, as was reported by TOI.
But after stiff opposition from the IAF, the Arun Jaitley-led defence acquisitions council (DAC) on Thursday cleared the Army's whittled down proposal for the six AH-64E Apache helicopters, which are manufactured by Boeing.
The DAC also approved the Rs 490 crore purchase of Zorya gas-turbine engine sets from Ukraine for two of the Grigorivich-class frigates being built in Russia. During the Modi-Putin summit in Goa last year, India had agreed to purchase four 4,000-tonne Grigorivich-class guided-missile stealth frigates at cost of $4 billion from Russia.
While two of these frigates are lying half-constructed at the Russian Yantar Shipyard due to a cash-crunch and bilateral problems between Russia and Ukraine, the other two will be built in the Goa Shipyard in India. India will now acquire the Zorya gas-turbine engines from Ukraine and then ship them to Russia for the first two frigates.
As earlier reported by TOI, the deal for the frigates is also linked to India's quest to lease a second nuclear-powered submarine (the first INS Chakra came in 2012) for around $1.5 billion from Russia.
As for the Apaches, the Army for long has been pushing for three squadrons of attack helicopters, among other choppers, for its three primary "strike" corps geared for rapid armoured thrusts into enemy territory.
The Army believes it should have "full command and control" over "tactical air assets" for rapid deployment along with its strike corps, while the IAF should concentrate on its "larger strategic role". As of now, IAF's two existing but ageing squadrons of Russian-origin Mi-25/35 attack helicopters are supposed to play that role.
As per the earlier contract, the 22 Apaches will be delivered to IAF from July 2019 onwards, along with 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.
The then UPA government had ruled that the first 22 Apaches would go to IAF. But it also held "future" procurements of attack helicopters would be for the Army, granting "in principle approval" to its case for raising three squadrons (13 choppers each) for the strike formations - 1 Corps (Mathura), 2 Corps (Ambala) and 21 Corps (Bhopal).