The Ministry of Defence has cleared the acquisition of six Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, armed with Hellfire and Stinger missiles for the Indian Army. This is the most advanced multi-role heavy attack helicopter in the world. The Army had sought approval for the acquisition of 11 Apache helicopters from the US, but only six were cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC). These will be purchased through the Foreign Military Sales programme as “a follow-on contract” to the Rs 13,952 crore deal inked for 22 such choppers for the IAF in September 2015. The Army had asked for the transfer of these 22 Apache helicopters to its custody, but the Air Force resisted the proposal on the fear that its role would be reduced. The IAF remains of the view that while there would be duplication of maintenance and logistics, there are specific IAF roles like Special Heliborne Missions and Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR), for which helicopters are required by the Air Force. The Army rests its case on the vital necessity of integrating the rotary wing with the ground forces in the close battle. Though five Apaches are now coming to the Army, they would require a minimum of six more Apache helicopters, for synergised operations in a sector.
The Rudra and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) are the army’s other attack helicopter programmes, which like the Apaches, will be deployed opposite Pakistan and China. As of now, while these helicopters are indigenously manufactured, a large percentage of the material used in their production are imported from different countries, which also includes the engine. This leads to integration and maintenance issues, but that is part of the indigenisation process. The army has a few squadrons of Rudras and plans to have a total of six squadrons, numbering up to 60 helicopters. While the ammunition for these multi-utility helicopters is being procured, the final trials of their crucial Helina missiles are on.
On November 7, 2016, the defence ministry had cleared a Rs 2,911-crore procurement of 15 LCHs as a “limited series production” (LSP) order—a little under Rs 200 crore per helicopter. This cost is likely to rise and would be in the range of Rs 231 crore per LCH at 2017-18 prices. Even so, the LCH is about half the cost of an Apache, though of course the characteristics are different. The Apache is more heavily armed and armoured and has the sophisticated Longbow fire control radar. The LCH does not yet have radar, but HAL intends to developone before mass production begins. Meanwhile, on 26 August 2017, the Defence Minister Shri Arun Jaitley launched the LCH’s production in Bangalore. Speaking in the occasion, Jaitley underlined the growing capabilities of HAL in indigenously designing and developing the LCH and now readying itself for its manufacture. In 2015, approval for 15 LCHs for the IAF and Army was accorded. HAL is building the 15 LSP choppers at its Bengaluru helicopter complex. However, the Army has committed to ordering 114 LCHs, and the air force another 65, which could be built at an upcoming helicopter production facility in Tumkur.
The LCH has been custom designed to provide fire support to the Army in the mountains at altitudes as high as 6,000 metres (almost 20,000 feet).At these rarefied altitudes, where the shortage of oxygen prevents troops from carrying heavy weapons into battle, the LCH can provide crucial fire support with its 20-millimetre turret gun, 70-millimetre rockets and, to be incorporated later, a guided missile.
MRSAMs FOR THE ARMY
The Indian Army will likely get an advanced medium-range surface to air missile (MRSAM) system by 2020, with the capability to engage ballistic missiles, fighter jets and attack helicopters from a range of around 70 km.The missile system will be produced by DRDO in collaboration with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and will be capable of shooting down enemy ballistic missiles, aircraft, helicopters, drones, surveillance aircraft and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems) aircraft. DRDO has signed a deal worth Rs 17,000 crore with the IAI for this ambitious project. As of now, MRSAMs are only available with the Indian Air Force and the Navy. The MRSAM for Army’s Air Defence is an advanced all weather, 360 degree mobile land based theatre air defence system capable of providing air defence to critical areas against a wide variety of threats in a combat zone. The army has been pressing the government for this capability, considering the evolving security challenges. The first set of missile system will be ready in the next three years.
NAVY GETS LONG RANGE SAMs
The Raksha Mantri, Shri Arun Jaitley handed over long range surface to air missile (LRSAM) to the Indian Navy in Hyderabad on 27 August 2017, at Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Kanchanbagh.
LRSAM is an advanced combat suit for missile defence against air targets and missiles and includes air & surface surveillance, threat alert and fire control. LRSAM is a DRDO-IAI (Defence Research & Development Organisation-Israeli Aircraft Industries) Joint Development Contract with defined work-share.BDL is the Missile Production Agency to deliver and support the Indian Armed Forces in country’s Defence preparedness. The missile is same for Tri Services viz., Navy, Air Force and Army. At BDLs Bhanur Unit, Shri Arun Jaitley, inaugurated the ASTRA Manufacturing Facility. Astra weapon system is an indigenously developed Air-to-Air beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile developed by DRDO.It comprises of Astra Launcher and Astra Missile. It is designed as a BVR missile with a range of 110 Km in head-on mode and 20 Km in tail-chase mode. BVR missiles are the latest in the air to air combat. BDL has been designated as the lead integrator by DRDO.
SAFARI STORME REPLACES MARUTI GYPSY
Tata Motors Ltd has signed a contract for supply of 3,192 units of the Safari Storme GS 800 4×4 to the Indian armed forces under a new category of vehicles called General Service 800. The Storme will replace the iconic Maruti Gypsy fleet in the 4×4 light vehicle category. Over 35,000 Gypsies are due for replacement in the coming years. Earlier, The Ministry of Defence had floated a price request for vehicles with three basic criteria — minimum payload capacity of 800 kilograms, hard roofs and airconditioning. Developed indigenously, the Storme 4×4 has completed a total trial duration of 15 months in various terrains across the country. The BSF has ordered over 500 Tata Xenon 4×4 vehicles to be used for patrolling the borders, once again replacing the Maruti Gypsy in a phased manner.The first replacements commenced in Rajasthan.