American Boeing Apache AH-64D wins the contract against Russian Mil Mi-28 in IAF’s tender

As most of you know, America Boeing‘s Apache AH-64D attack helicopter has been shortlisted by the Indian Air force, as the winner of the Tender. Now, that’s some news.

I’m sure there must have been some serious meetings in the Russian government offices right after the news was made public. This is the second time the Russian’s have lost a contract to one of its competitors in the recent days. First the expulsion of Mig-35 from the Indian MMRCA competition and now its the Mil Mi-28 Hunter helicopter. Well, even the Americans were also terminated from the MMRCA deal, that too both their jets, this was a consecutive loss for the Russians. I just hope this does not strain the relationship between the two countries. 

Now, lets see what made the IAF come to this conclusion. There was one particular paragraph that was written as quoted by the Defence Ministry: “We decided not to choose the Mi-28 for technical reasons. Our experts believe that the Mi-28N did not meet the requirements of the tender on 20 positions, while the Apache showed better performance.

If this were to be true, then very well, congratulations to Boeing for bagging this contract. But there are articles that say on the internet where some Swedish Officials were quoted telling that, the AH-64D was less superior to the Mi-28 and it was proven during their exercises in 1995. Now that’s a little stupid coming from such high ranking officials isn’t it? No offence but during the time when Mi-28 was yet to be finalized as fit for production, the AH-64D was already is production and was given for Operational Tests. Apache was already seeing action here and there whereas Mi-28 has not seen action yet, as we speak.

So what the Swedish officials are quoting is figures on paper but not battle tested. Others say that Mi-28 is quite comparable to AH-64D but with all due respect, gone are the days where we have to settle with the closest alternative when we have the choice to choose the best itself. Right now India’s borders and neighbors do not seem to be too friendly. And we need the best possible equipment to defend our borders with.

Why I say that is, remember the interview with the test pilot that was shown in almost all TV channels? He repeated almost every time, one very important fact. During the Kargil conflict when we needed attack helicopters to defend our peaks from the intruders, we could not use the then attack helicopters we had. They were simply too heavy to be flown to the heights where the fight was going on. The IAF had to use Mil Mi-17s which again were not too easily maneuverable since they too are huge and heavy. We lost 3 birds and many brave men. The cost was and is not acceptable. Considering the kind of weaponry the enemy was using Mi-17s did not stand a chance against the American Stinger Missiles. That is when they realized that we need lighter, better and faster attack helicopters. Thus our indigenous LCH was born.

So I am sure this one point also was considered by IAF while choosing the chopper. If you compare the weights of these two choppers also, Mi-28 weighs 8,600 kg (18,960 lb) when empty and 10,700 kg (23,590 lb) when loaded where as AH-64D weighs 11,387 lb (5,165 kg) when empty and 17,650 lb (8,000 kg) when loaded. So i guess, AH-64 got a lot of points here. Choosing Apache, we made sure that we have a light, agile, technologically superior chopper which hopefully does not stop us from getting anywhere again, and if needed AH-64D can shift from its intended role, to perform jobs at higher altitudes too.

Even in terms of performance the Mi-28 is better only in terms of Speed and Rate of Climb where as AH-64 leads by a respectable margin when it comes to Max Speed, Cruise Speed, Max Range, Combat Radius, Service Ceiling, etc.

When it comes to the Armament too, its seems that Apache packs a more powerful punch with 4 hard points under its stub wings compared to the two in Mi-28. Also the cannon in AH-64D can carry a total of 1200 rounds whereas the Mi-28 can carry 250 rounds. Considering that these cannons are controlled by the Pilot’s HUD and enable them to fire by just looking at a target, this is a bad figure. More ammunition + HUD controlled cannon can always be useful in a chaotic situation. Coming to the number of missiles both can carry, they appear to be the same but the kind of missiles they can carry, that is what is making the difference. Americans are known for the numerous kinds of missiles in their arsenal. We could write a one year college text book just to know about the missiles. Moreover whenever i read about any missiles in the Russian Inventory, some used to be better than what the US had and some mostly used to be as good as the US’ but they lacked when it comes to the range of the missile. So I’m okay here.

Putting aside all this, the most and VERY IMPORTANT factor to consider here is the operational history of the choppers. The Mi-28 here has no operational history here, whatsoever. Mind it, when i say operational history here, its about the action that they have seen. Since the introduction of Mi-28 in 2006, they have not seen any action in any conflict and moreover the proposed number of choppers for the Russian Army and Air force are yet to be inducted and the induction will go on till 2015.

But..

The AH-64D here has seen enough wars and action to tell its tale. Its possessed by America, UK, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and the Israel. And everyone of them has exploited this machine in a number of ways. There is a huge repository of knowledge that we can learn about this machine. Learning all the ways you can exploit this mean mighty machine itself is 90% training. It has seen enough action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc that whatever deficiencies it has when it comes to war time requirements that’s needed for this chopper, I am sure Boeing would have fixed all those gaps in it.

Look, Mi-28 might rise to become a better chopper than the Apache and kich Apache’s ass, but then there’s a lot of time to go for that. What India needs right now is battle tested and proven platform. It might take years for Mi-28 to see some action, or it might even not see any action. It will sure as hell take many more years till those gaps in it are fixed but India, my country right now is not in a position to wait that many years.

People also talk to me about the high maintenance costs involved with the American equipment. But I’ll say, guys, that’s okay. You may get whatever you want if you try and pay a little more but what if you do not get the required maintenance and spares when you need them at all. Which for your info is a major problem when it comes to the Russian equipment.  See below a Russian official himself confirming that fact:

Nikolai Novichkov, editor-in-chief of ARMS-TASS news agency:

“I would not say that the Mi-28H is inferior to the Amercian competitor. It seems that the reason is different. The Indians have been concerned about the way Russia executes the obligations connected with repairs and servicing of the delivered hardware. We also delay the execution of previously concluded contracts.”

I mean, do you think we can afford it? To just dump our equipment due to the unavailability of spares rather than go for something which can be repaired and kept running whenever we need? I am not messing around here. Remember the NDTV or CNN’s story on the 10yrs or something of Kargil war with the IAF? The Wing Commander, then the person who participated in Karil war, tells how they suffered with lack of spares and lack of proper ammunition for the jets at that time. Thanks to their training, they were able to tweak the age old armaments they had in the arsenal and use it however they want. We should never get into that kind of situation.

I agree that we can never trust the US when we need them the most too but if at least our machine’s are in a working condition we can figure something out for ourselves. Our IAF men are best in that. They have proved it many times.

So considering all these facts, yeah, I guess IAF did the right job of selecting the Boeing Apache AH-64D Longbow attack helicopter for purchase. And I sincerely hope that this does not and should not strain the relationship between the two countries. You Russians are always the closest allies and the best partners we could have. Ours is a time tested relationship and the best one.

MY CONGRATULATIONS TO BOEING ON WINNING THE TENDER. WISH TO SEE APACHE FLYING IN OUR SKIES SOON 🙂

I wish i could dig into the specs of the choppers more. But lack of time for the research. Will sure do, when I get time. Any comments, corrections and suggestions are most welcome. Till then…..

Sayonara,

~Naveen K