India Gets Apache Helicopter, Hails It as ‘Significant Step’

DESPARDES News Monitor – India has received the first of 22 Apache attack helicopters from the US, its defense and security ally in the region. The war machine was handed over to Delhi by Boeing during a ceremony in the US, with New Delhi saying it will give its forces a “significant edge” in potential conflicts.

India conflict zones cover wider northern areas spanning the Himalyan region where Kashmir is located– considered a nuclear flash point.

Part of a $2.02 billion order made in 2015, the handover took place at the defense giant’s production facility in Mesa, Arizona on May 10. It was attended by senior India Air Force (IAF) officials who heralded the induction of the attack choppers as a “significant step” in the modernization of India’s delpleting air fleet. They added that Boeing had worked to customize the helicopter to meet Indian requirements that would give it “significant capability in mountainous terrain.”

The Himalayan mountain based Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but has been claimed by both in its entirety since the two nations gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947 and immediately started fighting over the territory.

Initially, the anti-India movement in the Indian-controlled portion of the territory was largely peaceful, but after a series of broken promises and a crackdown on dissent, Kashmiris launched a full-blown armed revolt in 1989, seeking unification with Islamabad or complete independence for the entire region.

The first batch of Apaches deliveries to New Delhi will take place in July and is expected to be completed by end of 2020. Aircrew and ground crew for the attack helicopters have already undergone training at US Army base Fort Rucker, Alabama, and will lead India’s Apache program once operational.

India’s military arsenal now comprises a mix of Russian and Western-made arms. Last month India announced it would purchase 464 of Russia’s T-90 MS main battle tanks in a $1.93 billion deal.

New Delhi has also rebuffed US pressure to drop a planned purchase of the S-400 air defense system from Moscow, despite Washington’s threats to slap it with sanctions in return.

The article originally appeared in Al-Bilad Daily English Online, Jeddah