Due to American and Indian negotiators’ failure to reach a trade agreement, some media reports panned President Donald Trump’s visit last week to India as more show than substance. Yet a closer look at the U.S.-India defense deals finalized during the trip shows that the visit facilitated deeper security cooperation with a critical U.S. partner in Asia.

Washington and New Delhi used the presidential visit to announce India’s decision to purchase more than $3 billion in defense equipment. This purchase includes six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Indian Army and 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Indian Navy. According to a U.S.-India joint statement, the helicopters will “advance shared security interests, job growth, and industrial cooperation between both countries.”

The AH-64E specializes in armed reconnaissance, mobile strike and close-air support missions. The Apache has seen extensive combat experience with the U.S. Army and is also flown by countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom and Israel. The Apache will provide a significant capability improvement over India’s legacy attack helicopters.

The Indian Air Force, which has traditionally operated military helicopters, already has 17 AH-64Es and expects to induct five more. But this new sale will provide the Indian Army Aviation Corps organic attack helicopters. The Apache will provide the Indian Army valuable close-air support in India’s challenging border regions. India’s infantrymen in need of close-air support will no doubt appreciate that the Indian Army’s Apaches will be equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra-70 rockets.

The Indian Army needs many more attack helicopters, so this initial Apache purchase could represent just a first step toward the acquisition of around 40 total helicopters.

Pakistan has taken notice of New Delhi’s Apache purchases and is reportedly threatening to purchase Chinese Z-10 attack helicopters if Islamabad cannot acquire new Turkish or American aircraft. Given India’s concerns with China, as well as the increasingly close relationship between Moscow and Beijing, Pakistan’s actions may further encourage New Delhi to deepen its military partnership with the United States.

In addition to the Apaches, New Delhi is also purchasing MH-60R helicopters for its Navy. The MH-60R excels in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, and can operate from a variety of vessels. The MH-60R helicopters will begin to address an important Indian capability gap with respect to anti-submarine warfare.

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China India Indo-Pacific Military and Political Power Pakistan U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy