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IAF’s acquisition – Welcome Apache, but India needs defence production

Such has been the state of India’s defence procurement in the last few decades that any major arms purchase is regarded as a big step forward. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has received the first Apache Guardian attack helicopter that can engage both air and ground targets, at the Boeing production facility at Arizona in the United States.

The AH-64E (I) Apache Guardian is an advanced all-weather attack helicopter with relative stealth, using low-altitude obstacles like trees and hills as cover. The addition of the Apache is an important step towards modernisation of the IAF’s helicopter fleet.

The IAF had signed a contract with the US government and Boeing in September 2015 for 22 Apache helicopters. The pace of modernisation of the Indian military hardware has been tardy, making such purchases mandatory.

Indigenous development of defence hardware continues to be a concern and the country’s aspiration for defence self-sufficiency, remains largely elusive, despite the Modi government’s ambitious Make in India programme. As India is one of the largest importers of arms in the world, its over-dependence on other countries for sophisticated weapons systems, is likely to negatively impact its great power goal.

India’s inability to meet its own defence needs through indigenous production is epitomized in two flagship programmes, main battle tank Arjun and light combat aircraft Tejas. In both these cases, Indian defence research organisations have gone through several production delays and cost overruns, leading to genuine concerns about the challenges that the Indian defence industry faces in terms of being efficient, productive and capable as far as R&D is concerned.

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