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US companies to re-enter race for sale of gunships to India


Apache AH-64D helicopter.

WASHINGTON (PTI): American military aviation companies have announced their intention to re-enter the race for India's massive USD 1.4 billion contract for purchase of 22 attack helicopters, almost a year after withdrawing from the hunt.

The American intentions were made clear with the Pentagon notifying US Congress about the possible sale of helicopter gunships to India and clearing the sale of AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles to the country to arm Indian Navy's about to be delivered P-81 Neptune maritime patrol aircraft.

According to the Pentagon notification, the American aviation giant Boeing will re-bid for the Indian contract with its Apache AH-64D helicopter gunships, which have proved their mettle in the ongoing Iraq and Afghan conflict.

But it is not clear whether the other American armament giant the Bell helicopters may also join the race with its Super AH-12 Cobra attack helicopters.

The American companies had withdrawn from the tender in 2009 as the Indian Government wanted to deal directly with armament companies to speed up the acquisitions to replace its ageing Russian made fleet of 32 MI-24/35 attack helicopters.

After the US companies withdrew from the tender, the Indian Government cancelled the contract at the last moment when only European bidder Eurocopter was left in the hunt.

New Delhi recently floated a fresh Request for Proposals (RFP) earlier this year for the attack helicopters. The acquisition of 22 gunships is part of a massive deal to augment the Indian Air Forces fixed wing fleet by inducting light, medium and heavy lift helicopters.

Besides Boeing and other American companies, EADS the makers of Eurocopter, Augusta Westland and Russian companies are in the fray for the helicopter contract.

"This notification is being made in advance so that, in the event that the Boeing-US Army proposal is selected, the United States might move as quickly as possible to implement the sale," Pentagon said.

The two potential sales, notified to the Congress separately are worth USD 1.6 billion.

The largest sale worth USD 1.4 billion is that of AH-64D Block III Apache helicopters which includes engines, equipment, weapons, training, parts and logistical support.

The second sale of USD 200 million is the package of 21 AGM-84L HARPOON Block II Missiles and associated equipment, parts and logistical support.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the US-India strategic relationship and to improve the security of an important partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South Asia," said the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in a statement.

"The proposed sale in support of AH-64D helicopters will improve India's capability to strengthen its homeland defence and deter regional threats.

"This support for the AH-64D will provide an incremental increase in India's defensive capability to counter ground-armoured threats and modernise its armed forces," it said.

"India will have no difficulty absorbing this helicopter support into its armed forces," it said.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency informed the Congress that India intends to use the missiles on its Indian Navy P-8I Neptune maritime patrol aircraft which will provide enhanced capabilities in effective defense of critical sea lines of communication.

India has already purchased HARPOON Block II missiles for integration on the Indian Air Force Jaguar aircraft and will have no difficulty absorbing these weapons into its armed forces, it said.


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