Indian Air Force Inducts Eight AH-64E Apache Helicopters At Pathankot
The Indian Air Force on Tuesday inducted eight U.S.-made Apache AH-64E helicopters, a move that is seen as significantly boosting its arsenal amid cross-border skirmishes.
The eight helicopters, manufactured by aerospace company Boeing Co., were part of a multi-billion dollar deal India struck with the U.S. for 22 Apache AH-64E choppers nearly four years ago.
In a brief address after induction of the fleet, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said procurement of the choppers with latest technology was a "significant step" towards modernisation of the IAF. "The Apache helicopters will enhance the operational capabilities of the IAF," he said at the Pathankot air base.
The induction of the Apache helicopters came over six months after IAF conducted Balakot air strikes inside Pakistan, and amid demands by the IAF to further bolster its combat capabilities to deal effectively deal with any external security threat.
The Apache AH-64E is one of the world's most advanced multi-role combat helicopters and is flown by the U.S. Army. The choppers are customised to suit IAF's future requirements.
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 helicopters, and that it is receiving the most advanced variant.
"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.”
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.
The IAF had signed a multi-billion dollar contract with the U.S. government and Boeing 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 Indian 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 Apache AH-64E has the latest technology insertions, maintaining its standing as the world's best attack helicopter.
The Apaches 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 U.S. in 2018.
The eight Apache helicopters had arrived in India in July.