Army Chief contests IAF's claims over Apache choppers



New Delhi: Contesting IAF's claim that the soon-to-be-procured Apache choppers would remain with it, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh on Monday said Government would take a final call in this regard.

"The decision has to be taken by the government. This is a national asset from tax-payers' money and no service can say that it belongs to it, it belongs to the nation... We want the Apaches," he said on the sidelines of his annual press conference.

The Army Chief was asked if the force was planning to seek control over the Apache helicopters that are being procured from the US.

He said the force also has plans in place for arranging the training of its pilots at foreign facilities.

The Army Chief's statement comes days after IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said the Apaches would remain with his force as it was an ongoing acquisition process.

The IAF and the Army in the recent past have been at loggerheads for controlling the attack helicopter fleet and the Defence Ministry has decided in favour of the Army.

The Army already has an aviation wing but Defence Minister AK Antony has approved a long-pending demand of the 1.3 million-strong force for attack helicopters, overruling stiff opposition from the Air Force.

The sanction has made it clear that all "future" procurements of such helicopters would be for the Army. The Army had been demanding attack helicopters, saying these are mainly used for operations by it.

The IAF had been strongly resisting it, with Browne saying the country cannot afford to have "small air forces". The IAF is in final stages of completing the acquisition process of 22 Apache choppers from the US after the American machine edged out the Russian Mi-28 Havoc in the tender.

PTI