In a significant boost to enhance the combat capabilities of the IAF, eight US-made Apache AH-64E helicopters will be inducted into service at the Pathankot air base on Tuesday. India had inked the deal with the US in 2015 for 22 such advanced helicopters for more than one billion dollars. IAF chief BS Dhanoa will be chief guest at the induction ceremony.
The AH-64E Apache is one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopters and is flown by the US Army. “Eight of the Apache attack helicopters are set to be inducted into the IAF, that will enhance the force’s combat capabilities,” a senior IAF official said on Monday. The first four of 22 helicopters were handed over by Boeing, the manufacturer of the helicopters, to the IAF at the Hindan airbase on July 27. By 2020, all the 22 helicopters will join service.
Besides this deal, the Defence Ministry in 2017 approved the procurement of six Apache helicopters along with weapons systems from Boeing at a cost of Rs 4,168 crore for the Army.
This will be its first fleet of attack helicopters to be flown by the Army.
The attack helicopters provide aerial support to the armoured units including tanks and infantry in the battlefield by destroying enemy tanks, fortifications and sanitizing the area for successful movement of the ground troops.
The AH-64E Apache for the IAF completed successful first flights in July 2018. The first batch of IAF crew began training to fly the Apache in the US in 2018. Senior IAF officials said the addition of the Apache fleet will significantly enhance the force’s combat capabilities as the helicopter has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements.
Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches to customers around the world since the aircraft entered production and India is the 14th nation to select it for its military.
“By 2020, the IAF will operate a fleet of 22 Apaches, and these first deliveries are ahead of schedule,” Boeing had earlier said.
The aerospace major said the AH-64E has the latest technology insertions, maintaining its standing as the world’s best attack helicopter. “It is the only available combat helicopter with a spectrum of capabilities for virtually any mission requirement. For the AH-64 E, this includes greater thrust and lift, joint digital operability, improved survivability and cognitive decision aiding.
“It is uniquely suited to meet the commander’s needs, including reconnaissance, security, peacekeeping operations, and lethal attack — in both land and littoral environments — all without reconfiguration,” it said.