Defence forces firepower to get major boost
IAF to get 8 choppers in first go
JAMMU, Aug 22: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Birender Singh Dhanoa will be visiting Pathankot air base on September 3 for official induction of much-needed first batch of Apache attack helicopters into the Indian Air Force (IAF), which will give boost to the firepower of India’s defence forces as MiG fighters were getting old though they had successfully downed Pakistan’s F-16 in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district post Indian air raid at Balakote in February this year.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Rajnath Singh accompanied by Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa will be visiting Pathankot in the neighbourhood of Kathua district to induct the Apache attack choppers into the Indian Air Force officially on September 3. First batch of the attack choppers had arrived at the Hindan airbase in Uttar Pradesh about three week ago in an Antonov cargo plane.
“Eight choppers are likely to be inducted into the Air Force in the first go,” sources said, adding after the first four choppers, another batch had come to the airbase.
The AH-64E helicopters, the latest variants of the Apache, were delivered from the United States.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had presided over a ceremony in Chandigarh few months back for the official induction of the Chinook heavy-lift choppers. The choppers will be used for ferrying heavy loads in the mountainous region of Ladakh and other areas for the Army and Air Force requirements.
Asserting that Indian Air Force was in dire need of fighter helicopters, sources said induction of Apache choppers would meet requirements of the IAF to some extent, which will be followed by induction of French made Rafale jets.
The Indian Air Force had repeatedly been stressing for induction of modernized fighter jets in the force to strengthen firepower of the Defence forces.
According to sources, Rajnath Singh would also inter-act with top Indian Air Force officials during the function to review preparedness of the force.
On January 2, 2016, Pakistani militants had attacked Pathankot airbase, resulting into fierce gun battle and one of the most prolonged encounters lasting four days. Seven security personnel were martyred in the attack while four militants were killed.
Only a day before, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa had said at a function: “Today, I can still fly the MiG 21 MF aircraft which is almost 44 years old. I’m sure none of you are driving a car of that vintage. Having said that, it is because over a period of time we have indigenized many of the sub-assemblies and innovated and have done import substitution of many components, which have gone out of manufacture across the world.”
Dhanoa had made the statement on the obsolete fighter aircraft in IAF in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
The Defence Ministry had finalised the order for production, training and support of 22 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters in 2015.
Two years later, the Central Government had cleared the acquisition of an additional six Apaches for the Indian Army. By 2020, Boeing would hand over the entire fleet of 22 Apaches to the Indian Air Force for operations.
India had signed a deal worth USD 3 billion in 2018 for the supply of 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers and 22 attack helicopters from American firms. Both the deals were initiated during the UPA era around 2008-09 but could not be signed due to procedural and other issues in the contract.
The first Rafale fighter jet will be delivered to the Indian Air Force in September 2019 as per schedule, according to sources.
Rafale fighter jets, manufactured by France-based Dassault Aviation, are twin-engine multi-role fighter aircrafts. These are nuclear capable and can engage in both air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks.
French Ambassador to India, Alexandre Ziegler had recently stated that the first Rafale fighter aircraft will be delivered to India by September and the schedule of delivery will be “perfectly on time”.