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The Modi government on Tuesday approved the first big ticket defence contract as it cleared the purchase of 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy lift helicopters worth around $2.5 billion.The acquisition was finalised by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) just a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US.The negotiations on the two helicopter deals were spilled over from the UPA’s tenure. The offer for the helicopters manufactured by Boeing had already been given several extensions and it would have expired on September 30The IAF will replace its ageing fleet of Russia attack helicopters Mi-35 with AF-64E Apaches. The heavy lift Russian Mi-26’s will make way for CF-47 Chinooks, significantly scaling up IAF’s capabilities.The Defence Acquisiton Council (DAC), defence ministry’s highest decision making body, had cleared the purchase last year but it took several months for the finance ministry to give a go ahead. The process had been painstakingly slow and had to be given a push by the political leadership.While the DAC under Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has cleared acquisition proposals worth several thousand crores, very few cases have reached the final clearance authority, the CCS.The $2.5 billion dollar twin contracts goes into the books as Modi government’s biggest military purchase till date. The two helicopters were selected by the IAF over three years and the officials now hope that they would be delivered on schedule.
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