Boeing studying IAF tender for attack choppers

June 2nd, 2008 - 5:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) The Boeing Company said Monday it was studying an Indian Air Force (IAF) global tender for attack helicopters before formulating its response, even as it maintained its AH-64D Apache aligned with the Indian government’s requirements. “The company expects to reach a decision on whether it will bid the Apache later this month,” a terse statement from Vivek Lall, vice president of Boeing Integrated Defence Systems (IDS) and India Country Head, said Monday.

“On May 23, The Boeing Company received a Request for Proposals for 22 combat helicopters from the Indian government. While Boeing continues to evaluate the request, an initial review shows that the Boeing AH-64D Apache combat helicopter’s capabilities align with the Indian government’s requirements.

“The Apache has been in production for 25 years and has a proven track record in the global war against terror,” the statement added.

The statement is seemingly at variance with what a company official had said during a visit last month to the Apache’s production facilities at Mesa in Arizona.

At that time, it was made out that Boeing would aggressively bid for the order to replace the IAF’s ageing fleet of Soviet-era Mi-35 helicopter gun ships.

“We will be fully compliant with the DPP-2006 (India’s defence procurement procedure that was enunciated in 2006 and is now in the process of being fine tuned). In fact, we will even go one step further,” the official told IANS on the sidelines of a visit by a group of Indian journalists.

“What we will propose - and this is not mandated in the DPP - is a logistics support arrangement under which Boeing officials will be posted at the locations where the Apache is deployed to provide assistance with maintenance,” the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

When it was pointed out that the defence ministry and the IAF might not agree to such an arrangement, the official pointed to an alternative.

“In that case, we can provide remote assistance from a location closest to India. What we are also committing is the replacement within 24 hours of a part that goes defective. We will then fly out that part, repair it and reinstall it,” the official said.

“We will also maintain a log of all parts that go defective. If we notice a pattern in this, we will get our engineers to work on a permanent solution to this. In this way, we create a win-win situation for both sides,” he added.

Earlier, during a briefing on the capabilities of the helicopter, Brad Rounding, manager of the Apache programme, described it as the “most trusted weapon system on the battlefield” and pointed out that it had logged 2,100,000 hours with the US forces since its induction.

“The Apache has flown 70,000 combat hours in Afghanistan and 350,000 combat hours in Iraq. It is the most survivable aviation system on the battlefield,” Rounding added.

“When Apaches are flying, troops aren’t dying,” he maintained, and quoted a captured Iraqi lieutenant general as saying: “We were defenceless against the Apaches…so I ran.”

“An aircraft designed to fight tanks in the Cold War era is now the weapon of choice in the global war against terror,” he added.

Powered by two high-performance turbo-shaft engines that enable it to achieve a maximum cruise speed of 284 km per hour, the helicopter is equipped with laser, infrared and other systems - including target acquisition and designation sights and pilot night vision sensors - to locate, track, and attack targets.

This apart, it is armed with a combination of laser-guided precision Hellfire missiles, 70mm rockets, and a 30 mm automatic cannon that can fire high-explosive and dual-purpose ammunition.

Apart from the US, the armed forces of Britain, the armed forces of Greece, Holland, Japan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates currently operate the Apache. Some 1,600 new and re-manufactured machines are now flying and production is expected to extend well beyond 2040.

Three other helicopters are in contention for the IAF order. They are the Eurocopter Tiger, the Bell AH-1Z Super Cobra and the new version of the Mi-35.

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