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US-made Apache choppers will be for IAF: Browne

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The AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter. A Boeing photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): The twenty-two Apache combat helicopters, which are in the process of being acquired from the US, will be for the Indian Air Force (IAF), its chief N A K Browne has said.

"The Apaches are going to be with us only as it is an ongoing acquisition process," Air Chief Marshal Browne told PTI on Sunday on the sidelines of a 1971 Indo-Pak war anniversary function.

The Defence Ministry had recently allowed the Army to have combat choppers and said that all future acquisitions will be for it.

"The Government has decided to let the Army to have its own heavy duty attack helicopters.

"The decision to vest the future inductions of attack helicopters with the Army has been taken keeping in view the operational requirements in the field," Defence Minister A K Antony had told the Parliament.

He had also said that the IAF was procuring 22 AH-64D Block-III Apache helicopters from Boeing Company of USA.

Browne said the Apaches are not just for taking out enemy tanks or for air-to-ground operations but they can be used for multiple tasks such as taking out enemy radar stations and for air-to-air missions.

The Army had said recently that it was planning to send a proposal to the Defence Ministry for seeking transfer of attack helicopters from the Air Force at the earliest.

Sources said the Army had also suggested that the proposal would also include transfer of the Apache helicopters which are being procured.

The IAF and the Army in the recent past have been involved in a battle of sorts for controlling the attack helicopter fleet and the Defence Ministry has decided in favour of the Army.

The Army already has an aviation wing but the Defence Minister has approved a long-pending demand of the 1.3 million-strong force for attack helicopters, overruling stiff opposition from the Air Force.

The Army had been demanding attack helicopters, saying these are mainly used for operations by it.

The IAF had been strongly resisting it, with Browne saying the country cannot afford to have "small air forces".

The IAF is in the final stages of completing the acquisition process of the 22 Apache choppers from the US after the American machine edged out the Russian Mi-28 Havoc in the tender.

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