Indian government clears multi-billion dollar chopper deals ahead of Modi’s US visit

Chopper deal

Signalling its intent to strengthen defence ties with the United States, India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) cleared a multi-billion dollar deal on September 22. The deal is for 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers with American aviation giant Boeing. The approval comes just a day ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States. The deal is estimated to be valued at around USD 2.5 billion.

The deal for Apache would have two contracts to be signed, one with Boeing for the helicopter and the other with the US government for weapons, radars and electronic warfare suites. The 22 Apache AH 64D Longbow helicopters are one of the most advanced multi-role combat helicopters, featuring all-weather and night fighting features, ability to track up to 128 targets in less than a minute and engage with 16, besides stealth characteristics, advanced sensors and beyond visual range missiles.

This was one of the major deals that the US had been pushing to increase its presence in the Indian defence market. India has signed defence deals worth USD 10 billion over the last decade with the US, making it India’s leading defence trade partner. The US is now the biggest supplier of military hardware to India, replacing Russia, which held that slot for decades followed by Israel which is the third largest.

The Obama administration has been focusing on strengthening defence ties with India through initiatives such as Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), which would promote indigenisation of India’s military-defence complex. This would be done through transfer of technology and co-development of cutting-edge weaponry. The Pentagon has announced that the recently set up India special cell will boost and speed up defence trade ties between India and US. The India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC) has been set up by the Pentagon to speed up its defence ties with India and accelerate the process of co-development and co-production of hi-tech military equipment in the country. India is the only country to have a specific cell of its kind inside the Pentagon.

While India continues facing security issues with its neighbours Pakistan and China, the growing relationship with the US further strengthens India’s position in the region. The clearance of the deal by the Indian government seems to have been timed well, just ahead of Mr Modi’s visit.