The Indian Air Force (IAF) took delivery of its first AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter during a ceremony at Boeing’s production facility in Mesa, Arizona, USA on May 10.
Air Marshal A.S. Butola, Commandant of Air Force Academy (AFA) Dundigal, represented the IAF and accepted the first Apache helicopter.
The addition of the Apache helicopters, designated AH-64E(I) with I representing India, is “a significant step towards modernization of the Air Force’s helicopter fleet”, said an IAF statement. The helicopter has been customized to suit the IAF’s future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain.
The first batch of helicopters is scheduled to be shipped to India by July this year. Selected IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone training at the training facilities at the U.S. Army base, Fort Rucker, in Alabama.
In 2015, India had placed the order, worth $3.1 billion, for 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, and 15 CH-47F(I) Chinook 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. The IAF’s CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopter also performed its maiden flight in the same month.
The first of the 15 Chinook helicopters ordered by India was officially delivered to the IAF during a ceremony at Boeing’s facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Feb. 1. The helicopter arrived in India later the month, ahead of schedule. The first four CH-47F (I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters were formally inducted to the IAF fleet during a ceremony at the 3 Base Repair Depot (3 BRD) in Chandigarh on March 25.
Today, customers around the world operate more than 2,300 Boeing-made Apache helicopters since the aircraft entered production. The helicopter has been fielded or selected for acquisition by the armed forces of 16 countries, including India. The U.S. Army Apache fleet alone has accumulated more than 4.3 million flight hours, including more than 1.2 million in combat, as of January 2018.
Currently, the Indian helicopter fleet is made up of mostly Russian platforms such as Mil Mi-17 utility helicopters, Mi- 26 heavy-lift helicopters and Mi-24 attack helicopters.