Thursday, June 13, 2024

‘Make-In-India’ Gets Lift With Boeing CH-47 Chinook Helicopter Contract

By Aritra Banerjee

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently deployed over 100 advanced long-range rocket launchers along its high-altitude borders with India. The development followed the Indian deployment of the M777 ultra-light howitzers along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC). These military moves followed the failure of marathon corps commander level talks aimed at disengagement from the strategic Depsang Plains. 

The ongoing tensions between New Delhi and Beijing have seen a procurement overhaul for Indian Armed Forces for deployment along the eastern sector. The procurement and deployment of the M777 howitzers were analysed in the November 2021 issue of IA&D as part of the publication’s ‘Offset Status’ coverage.

Chinook Helicopters Deployed 

The Tawang Plateau in Arunachal Pradesh, situated in India’s northeast, adjoining Bhutan and Tibet, has seen significant troop presence over the past month. India has control over the territory; however, China lays a stake there. The contested landmass is of immense historical, political, and strategic value. Against this backdrop, the deployment of CH-47 Chinook helicopters came into play. 

The Indian military deployment of ‘American-made’ Chinook helicopters and M777 light howitzers serve as a means to hold ground against the dragon at its doorstep. The Chinooks, in particular, provide a strategic heavy-lift capability to Indian forces. The choppers are manufactured by Boeing Vertol, designed and developed by the United States-based rotorcraft company Vertol. Many operational considerations behind the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) acquisition of the CH-47 Chinook. 

Everything You Need To Know About Chinook’s

The Chinooks are equipped to airlift various military and non-military loads into the most far-flung environments; the heavy-lift copter has a twin-engine tandem-rotor design. The Chinook helicopters possess advanced cargo-handling capabilities, facilitating the aircrews for a quick and convenient mission shift. During missions, personnel onboard can change from moving cargo to transporting vehicles to men and material.

These Choppers can even be deployed to air in the construction of border road development and other critical infrastructure projects in remote areas. Boeing claims that Chinooks can be operated in altitude (high), crosswind, and climatic (hot) conditions.

Chinooks have earned a reputation and built up political clout over the years owing to their military history with the US Army and operational use by at least 19 armed forces worldwide. The chopper has a fully-integrated glass cockpit for mission management, while to enhance aircrew safety, a digital advanced light flight control system has also been built.

Lifting ‘Make in India’

In 2015 Pratyush Kumar, President of Boeing India, announced to the press that the induction of the newest Chinook variant in the upcoming years would be “a milestone in Boeing’s expanding commitment to India.” He further claimed that “Large sections of the Chinook fuselage are already manufactured in India.” 

According to a 2019 report by Ankit Panda for ‘The Diplomat,’ New Delhi and Washington concluded the agreement over the military on September 28, 2015. The deal was projected to have been $3 billion at the time. Negotiations between the two parties over offset obligations, which require the seller to invest a portion of the contract price in India, were the perceived cause behind the delay. 

IA&D reached out to Boeing Aerospace for clarity on the deal’s offset clause discharge. The company responded to this correspondent’s request for comment, saying: “While we cannot comment on the specifics of offset contracts with the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD), Boeing is committed to delivering on its offset commitments that are in line with India’s Defence Procurement Procedure and meeting the Indian government’s stated goals, including strengthening India’s aerospace capabilities.”

Beyond Chinooks & Howitzers – The Bigger Picture

Despite the operational efficacy of the CH-47 Chinook and M777 Howitzers, no piece of military hardware in isolation can offer a decisive edge. These deployments follow a broader strategic framework formulated to deal with the mounting Chinese pressure. New Delhi is developing long-standing strategic partnerships and defence ties with allied nations to better ensure regional security and territorial sanctity. 

It may be poignant to note that the world’s longest two-lane tunnel, close to 4,000 metres above sea level, is being constructed by Indian engineers. The tunnel runs underneath a critical mountain pass which is bound to be accessed only by a 317 km road to the disputed border.

(With inputs by Vaibhav Agrawal)


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