Apache attack helicopters and weapons: $930 million price tag is unreal

Going by the price of the Apache helicopter gunship and the weapons, the price tag of $930 seems outlandish

Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images
Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Tathagata Bhattacharya

India is paying a staggering $930 million for 6 Apache helicopter gunships, upwards of $150 million for each in a deal that includes missiles, ammunition and the training toys including simulators. Israel paid between $94 and $110 million for each F35A which is a fifth generation multirole combat aircraft. Even with the weapons and training infrastructure, their unit cost won't reach $150 million. Smells fishy, doesn't it? Now take this. In 2017, Boeing and US Army signed a $3.4B Contract for 268 AH-64E Apache helicopters at a unit cost of about $13 million per chopper, albeit remanufactured with a few newly built.

Now, the unit cost of a brand new variant of AH-64 E in 2014 by the report of US Department of Defense (Comptroller) worked out to $35 million. If one were to add another $15 million for inflation over four years, a liberal addition by all means, it brings the unit price of a brand new gunship to about $50 million

So, the cost of the six choppers can add up to $300 million at the most. Let’s say, another $100 million go in for simulators and other training gizmos. This is also a liberal figure. A few news reports have surfaced, saying the contract includes night vision sensors, fire control radars and inertial navigation systems. But these were part of the specifications that the Indian Air Force had put in following which Mi-28 Havoc and AH-64 Apache threw their hats in the ring. These are parts and parcels of the helicopter that is being bought and the price has to be included in it. That leaves more than $500 million for Hellfire Longbow missiles and Stinger Block I-92H missiles.

Let’s assume $250 million will go in for Hellfire each of which cost $1,15,000. Another $250 million goes in for the Stingers which are Cold War era missiles though significantly upgraded. Each of these come for $38,000. That means around 2,172 Hellfires and and 6,578 Stingers. A purchase of this magnitude means reduced prices, but let’s keep that aside for the moment.

But the actual deal includes the sale of 180 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 90 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire II missiles, 200 Stinger Block I-92H missiles, next to 30mm cannon ammunition, as has been reported in multiple media outlets. One really is amused as to how then does the math add up to $930 million?

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