8 Apache helicopters inducted
PATHANKOT, Sept 3:
Apache stealth attack helicopters have been part of numerous historic campaigns worldwide and the newly-inducted AH-64E helicopters, armed with cutting-edge technology, will enhance the operational capabilities of the IAF as the strike force, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said today.
He was speaking at a ceremony held at the Pathankot Air Force station to induct eight US-made Apache helicopters into the Indian Air Force.
“Apache AH-64E attack helicopters will replace the ageing Mi-35 fleet. A total of 22 Apaches are to delivered and the first eight helicopters have been delivered on time,” he said.
The helicopters are equipped with advanced weaponry system, which includes air-to-air Stinger missiles, air-to-ground Hellfire missiles, 70 mm Hydra rockets, and one 30 mm chain gun with 1200 rounds, the IAF said.
The eight helicopters have been delivered on schedule and the last batch is to be delivered by March 2020, the IAF said, adding that these will be deployed in the western regions of the country.
“These Apaches have been modified to suit the exacting standards demanded by the IAF… Alongside the capability to shoot fire and forget anti-tank missiles, it has air-to-air missiles, rockets and other ammunition, and it also has modern electronic warfare capabilities to provide versatility to the helicopter,” Dhanoa said.
“These attack helicopters will enhance the operation capabilities of the IAF as the strike force,” the IAF chief said.
The induction of Apache helicopters is a significant step towards modernisation of the IAF fleet, he said.
The twin-engine, two-crew tandem seating helicopter has a glass cockpit and can reach a speed up to 186 knots, and has a combat radius of 300 miles, the IAF said.
All-weather helicopters, Apaches are capable of operating day and night and have a very high agility and survivability against battle damage, a senior IAF official said.
Dhanoa, in his address during the induction ceremony, described Apache as “one of the fiercest attack helicopters in the world”.
“They have been part of numerous historic campaigns worldwide…Apaches are capable of performing many missions like in heli-borne operations, suppression of enemy air defence and battlefield air strike roles,” he said.
The AH-64E Apache is one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopters, and is flown by the US Army. The IAF had signed a multi-billion dollar contract with the US government and Boeing Ltd in September 2015 for 22 Apache helicopters.
The eight helicopters have been delivered on schedule and the rest are expected to be delivered by 2020.
The eight Apache helicopters are part of the 125 Helicopter Squadron, known as the Gladiators and based at the Pathankot Air Force station.
In his speech, Dhanoa also charted the history of helicopters which have been in the inventory of the IAF.
“Since 1954, when IAF inducted Sikorsky S-55 as part of the newly-raised 104 helicopter unit, there has been no looking back for these rotary wings. The IAF helicopters have proved their mettle in various missions and operations worldwide,” he said.
Dhanoa said the IAF helicopter inventory varies from Cheetah, Chetak to the mighty Mi-35. Armed helicopters Mi-35 remained an attack helicopter for the IAF and they have served the IAF for over three decades in Indian missions and peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Congo.
He said with the induction of Apache, the IAF has upgraded its inventory to the latest version of attack helicopters.
The induction of the Apache fleet came over six months after India carried out an air strike deep inside Balakot in Pakistan, and amid demands by the IAF to further bolster its combat capabilities to deal effectively deal with any external security threat.
The Apaches also have a fully integrated digital cockpit which enhances its mission performance. It is uniquely suited for reconnaissance, security, peacekeeping operations, and lethal attack across myriad environments without reconfiguration.
In a statement, Boeing said India is the 16th nation to procure the Apache, and that it is receiving the most advanced variant of the chopper.
“Boeing is committed to supporting the modernisation requirements of the Indian armed forces and maintaining them to be mission-ready,” said Salil Gupte, president of Boeing India.
“We are confident that the Apaches will be an indispensable asset to the Indian Air Force. We will continue our efforts to deliver advanced capabilities to India’s defence forces,” added Gupte.
The IAF chief said the Apache helicopters will replace the ageing Mi-35 fleet of the IAF and the last batch of the choppers will be delivered by March 2020.
“This procurement will enhance the capability of IAF in providing integrated combat aviation cover to the army strike corps. These tandem seating helicopters are day and night and all weather capable and have high agility and survivability against battle damage,” said an IAF spokesperson.
He said the Apaches are easily maintainable even in field conditions and are capable of prolonged operations in tropical and desert regions.
The IAF had signed a multi-billion dollar contract with the US government and Boeing Ltd in September 2015 for 22 Apache helicopters.
Additionally, 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 choppers.
Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches to customers around the world since the aircraft entered production.
“By 2020, the IAF will operate a fleet of 22 Apaches, and these first deliveries are ahead of schedule,” the company said.
The aerospace major said the AH-64E has the latest technology insertions, maintaining its standing as the world’s best attack helicopter.
The AH-64E Apache for the IAF completed successful first flights in July 2018. The first batch of Indian Air Force crew began their training to fly the Apache in the US in 2018.
The eight Apache choppers arrived in India in July.
The official induction was marked by the Boeing India president handing over the ceremonial key to the IAF chief, who in turn gave it to Grp Capt M Shylu, commanding officer of the Gladiators. (PTI)