IAF receives first Apache attack helicopter from Boeing

The helicopter has been customised to suit IAF's future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain.

The Indian Air Force has received the first Apache attack helicopter that will boost the force’s ability to strike at the enemy.

The first AH-64E (I) Apache Guardian helicopter was formally handed over to the IAF at Boeing's production facility in Mesa, Arizona on Friday. Air Marshal AS Butola, Commandant, Air Force Academy received the chopper at a ceremony in the presence of US government officials.

In September 2015, India signed an approximately Rs 14,000 crore deal with the USA to buy 22 Apache helicopters in a government to government contract. The first Apache is expected to reach India in July.

The gunships will initially be stationed at Pathankot near the Pakistan border and later a second squadron may be formed on the eastern front.

“The helicopter has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain. The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from the ground,” the IAF says in a statement.

The Apache-64E will be fitted with Hellfire Longbow missiles, Hellfire-II missiles and Stinger missiles besides fire-control radars.

“The ability of these helicopters, to transmit and receive battlefield pictures, 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,” it added.

For years, the IAF and Indian Army had a turf war on who would operate these gunships that are critical to support the ground troops in an operation. The feud continued for many years before Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar settled the issue in favour of the IAF for the first batch of 22 Apache helicopters.

In August 2017, the Defence Ministry approved the purchase of another six Apache gunships at a cost of nearly Rs 4,200 crore for the Army.

IAF pilots and crew were trained at the US Army base Fort Rucker, Alabama. The trained personnel will lead the operationalisation of the Apache fleet, says the IAF statement.

India has also purchased 15 heavy-lift Chinook helicopters from Boeing at a cost of Rs 8,000 crore. The delivery of both choppers will be completed by March 2020.

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