New Delhi: In a boost to the firepower and tactical capability of the Indian military, four Apache helicopters ordered by the Indian Air Force reached the country Saturday. The Apache is the first pure attack helicopter in India’s possession.
The Narendra Modi government had signed a multi-billion dollar contract for 22 Apaches in 2015.
The four AH-64E choppers were received at the Hindan Air Force Station in Ghaziabad, near the capital. Four more helicopters are expected to arrive next week. All eight will then move to the Pathankot Air Force Station in Punjab and will be formally inducted into the IAF in September.
The rest of the choppers are expected to be delivered by 2020.
Significance of the Apaches
India has been operating Russian Mi-35s, which are on the verge of retirement. These are classified as ‘assault’ choppers — the Mi-35s were designed to carry troops into heavily-defended territories. But the Apache is an out-and-out attack helicopter, and IAF sources said it will be a game-changer.
It comes with a 30mm cannon under the nose, which can fire 1,200 rounds in less than two minutes. Also equipped are 70mm rockets, which can be guided or unguided. The Apache can carry 80 of them in one go, besides Hellfire missiles. Together, with the avionics on board, these missiles can identify, track and hunt targets in the dead of night.
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The Apache is considered one of the most deadly attack helicopters in the world, with manufacturer Boeing selling over 2,200 of them since 1984.The AH-64E variant purchased by India has greater thrust and lift, joint digital operability, improved survivability and cognitive decision-aiding.
It is suited to meet the needs of the Indian military, including reconnaissance, security, peacekeeping operations, and lethal attack — on land and in littoral environments — without reconfiguration.
In 2017, the government also cleared the acquisition of an additional six Apaches for the Indian Army. The IAF was of the opinion that it should control the attack helicopters, but the Army was adamant on having its own.
Not an easy deal
The deal for the Apache helicopter was not an easy one to finalise. It had to survive over 10 price-validity extensions from the American side, and only a push from then-defence minister Manohar Parrikar finally set the ball rolling.
India is the 14th nation to select the Apache, and is receiving the most modern variant, the AH-64E, also flown by the US Army.
The deal with the US is a hybrid one — part of it was signed with Boeing for the helicopter and the other with the US government, under the foreign military sales route, for its weapons, radars and electronic warfare suites.
The AH-64E Apache for the IAF completed the successful first flights in July 2018. The first batch of IAF crew began training to fly the Apache in the US in 2018.
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