Two Boeing Birds

Checked out Boeing's rotorcraft facility in Mesa, Arizona today (I first visited in 2008). Scoped the AH-64D Block II and Block III lines and the upcoming AH-6 Litte Bird line. Boeing plans to begin briefings on the AH-6i to the Indian Army by the end of this year (by which time they expect to win the IAF attack copter competition with the Apache -- that is still unknown). Impressive little chopper, the AH-6i, but couldn't quite figure where it would fit with the Army's requirements, what with the ongoing reconnaissance and surveillance (RSH) helicopter competition and HAL's Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) effort.

On the Apache, the variant on offer to the IAF is the Block-III. The specimen fielded for three-week trials was a modified Block II with a great deal of Block III parts, including composite rotor, fuel tanks etc. The platform had the performance of a Block III, says Boeing, but without the avionics (the Boeing folks say the only spare they needed to use over those three weeks was an adhesive bond-on trim tab for the composite rotor). Boeing hasn't received word on how many Longbows the IAF is interested in (one in three US Army Apaches is a Longbow).

Am at Long Beach, California now. Tomorrow is the 'major join' ceremony of India's first C-17 where the forward, aft and fuselage sections will come together along with the wing assemblies. Stay tuned for photos and updates on the C-17 programme -- the largest Indo-US defence contract so far.

Photos / Shiv Aroor

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