New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha will travel to the US on May 18 on a five-day official visit, at a time when India is in the final stages of sealing crucial deals to buy US-built attack and heavy-lift helicopters.

New Delhi will spend close to $2.5 billion to equip its air force with 22 AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift choppers. Both birds have seen combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

US defence giant Boeing had beaten off competition from Russian rivals to win the the contracts. The Indian helicopter fleet currently consists of only Russian platforms.

A government official on Thursday said Raha's visit was aimed at bolstering bilateral cooperation and would include talks on proposed acquisitions. The helicopter deals are awaiting final approval from the cabinet committee on security.

The army is moving a case to buy 39 Apache helicopters, which could be a follow-on contract to the IAF order. Armed with fire-and-forget Hellfire missiles, the attack choppers can track up to 128 targets in a minute and prioritise threats. These missiles equip the helicopter gunships with heavy anti-armour capabilities.

The Chinook's main roles include transporting troops, artillery and battlefield resupply.

The US is currently the biggest supplier of weapons to the Indian military, having won deals worth over $10 billion during the last six years.

US defence secretary Ashton Carter is expected to arrive in India in early June on a visit aimed at strengthening military ties, four months after New Delhi and Washington renewed the 2005 India-US Defence Framework Agreement to deepen cooperation in several security-related areas.

The agreement led to some major weapon sales to India, deepened military-to-military engagements, bolstered technical cooperation and strengthened the overall strategic partnership.

India and the US will also be working on projects relating to co-development and co-production of military hardware and systems under the defence trade and technology initiative (DTII).

India and US have identified four key “pathfinder projects” for joint development and production under the DTTI. These include next generation Raven mini UAVs, roll on and roll off kits for C-130J Super Hercules planes and mobile electric hybrid power source.

India and US have also formed a working group to explore developing technology for aircraft carriers and jet engines.

Courtesy Hindustan Times