It was in September 2015 when the Indian Air Force (IAF) inked a multi-billion dollar deal with the US Defence giant Boeing to supply 22 choppers to India. The choppers in question are US-made Apache AH-64E(I), widely considered the most "fierce attack helicopters in the world". And, on Friday, eight out of the 22 Apache attack helicopters joined the IAF fleet in Pathankot.
At the Pathankot Air Force station, the first squadron was raised with a priest performing rituals in front of one of the helicopters, followed by a water cannon salute (a traditional salute that is being followed since ages to honour military veterans, foreign dignitaries and new airline services).
Talking about what makes these choppers lethal, Air Force chief BS Dhanoa said at the event, "It is one of the most fierce attack helicopters in the world. It is capable of performing many missions. Today with the induction of Apache AH-64E, the Indian Air Force has upgraded its inventory to the latest generation of attack helicopters."
Take a look at the Apache:
#NewInduction: Glimpses of AH-64E Apache attack helicopter's maiden flight at AFS Hindan.— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) September 2, 2019
The helicopter is planned to be inducted into the IAF on 03 Sep 19 at AFS Pathankot. pic.twitter.com/UYiSrEfOsg
The AH-64 Apache is the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter and is used by the US Army and a growing number of international defence forces. Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches to customers around the world since the helicopter entered production.
The Apache has been in service since 1984 with over 2,100 machines produced. The version that India is purchasing is the latest Block III configuration that the US first got in 2011. A total of 22 choppers are being bought for $1.4 billion.
“With its mast-mounted Longbow millimetric wave radar, the Apache will open up the tactical battlefield like never before. Besides the TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided) anti-tank missiles that it carries, its ability to transmit and receive the battlefield picture (from and to other weapon systems) through data-link make it a very lethal acquisition,” Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional DG, Centre for Air Power Studies, had told a leading media daily earlier this year.
The Apache comes loaded with fire-and-forget Hellfire missiles (a type of missile which does not require further guidance after launch). They can also prioritise threats by tracking up to 128 targets in a minute.
Reportedly, the Apache helicopters might replace the Russian origin Mi-35 that India has been using for years, which are now on the verge of being retired. While the Mi-35 was seen as an assault chopper that was designed to carry troops into heavily-defended territories, the Apache, on the other hand, is a dedicated lethal attack chopper.
The statement issued by the defence ministry said, “The addition of AH-64 E (I) helicopter is a significant step towards modernisation of Indian Air Force’s helicopter fleet. The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground. The ability of these helicopters, to transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems through data networking makes it a lethal acquisition. These attack helicopters will provide a significant edge in any future joint operations in support of land forces."
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