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Sorry, Mi-28: India Prefers AH-64D

November 8, 2011

India is the hottest corner of the global arms market these days and for good reason; it’s a big country with a big military looking for new weapons. Not only are its large purchases the stuff of legend (the MMRCA climaxes this month), but the developments on the domestic front are impressive as well.

Aside from the hotly contested MMRCA deal, however, another showdown had two former Cold War rivals vying for a multi-billion dollar tender. Last month, Russia had the ignominious displeasure of experiencing a turn down from its most loyal international client. The formidable Mi-28N simply didn’t cut it for the Indian defense officials involved, who cited technical deficiencies among other reasons why the gunship lost to its American rival during test flights last year.

That rival is the AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III, which Washington has been peddling to India since 2008. The competition with Russia’s own tank killing attack helicopter came to a head during a series of trials in 2010. The results compiled by the Indian Air Force favored the AH-64 and this influenced the Ministry of Defense’s selection.

Unlike the heavier Mi-28, the AH-64D maintains a powerful “brand” in the global arms market. It distinguished itself in both Iraq wars and is capable of performing a variety of roles, whether tank hunting or close air support, such as in the Afghan theater. In the coming years a total of 22 AH-64Ds worth $600 million are expected to boost India’s attack helicopter arm that’s largely composed of Mi-24 Hinds. The inevitable deal also has many strings attached, especially in avionics and other advanced parts that will be transferred to the client.

While this marks a setback for Russia, there are other tenders where its helicopters are competing. This includes light and heavy transports for ferrying troops across rugged terrain (think Sino-India frontier), in the latter the Mi-26 is  squaring off against the CH-47 Chinook.