The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Tuesday inducted eight new AH-64E Apache attack helicopters into the service during a ceremony at the Pathankot Air Force Station in Punjab.
Air Chief Marshal B. S. Dhanoa, IAF’s Chief of the Air Staff, was the chief guest at the ceremony while Air Marshal R. Nambiar, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of IAF’s Western Air Command, performed a ‘pooja’ ceremony.
The AH-64E Apache is one of the world’s most advanced attack helicopters and will give a major boost to the Indian Air Force’s combat capability. It is being procured to replace the IAF’s Russian-made Mi-35 attack helicopter fleet.
In 2015, India had placed the order, worth $3.1 billion, for 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, and 15 CH-47F(I) Chinook heavy-lift transport helicopters to be procured for its Air Force from Boeing though U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. Additionally, six Apaches were cleared for purchase for the Indian Army in 2017.
In July last year, the first AH-64E Apache attack helicopter built for the IAF conducted its maiden flight at Boeing’s AH-64 Apache manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona in USA.
On May 10, the Indian Air Force formally took delivery of its first Apache during a ceremony at Boeing’s production facility in Mesa, Arizona, USA. During that ceremony, Air Marshal A.S. Butola, Commandant of Air Force Academy (AFA) Dundigal, represented the IAF and accepted the first Apache helicopter.
The first batch of four helicopters arrived in the country on July 27 while the second batch of four arrived on July 30. The eight helicopters were then assembled and flight-tested at Hindon Air Force Station before arriving at the Pathankot AFS for induction.
The IAF is scheduled to receive all 22 helicopters by March 2020.
The procurement will enhance the capability of IAF in providing integrated combat aviation cover to the army strike corps. These tandem seating helicopters are day/night, all weather capable and have high agility and survivability against battle damage. These are easily maintainable even in field conditions and are capable of prolonged operations in tropical and desert regions.
The helicopter is capable of delivering variety of weapons which include Hellfire air-to-ground missiles (AGMs), 70 mm Hydra rockets and Stinger air-to-air missiles (AAMs). Apache also carries one 30 mm chain gun with 1200 rounds as part of area weapon sub system. To add to the lethality of the helicopter, it carries fire control radar, which has a 360° coverage and nose mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems.