A Major Boost to India’s Firepower
   07-Aug-2019
 

 
An Apache helicopter being offloaded from an Antonov AN 224 Transport Aircraft at Indian Air Force's Hindon Airbase in Ghaziabad 
 
 
The first batch of Apache Attack Helicopters were delivered to the Indian Air Force
 
Air Mshl PK Roy (Retd) 
 
On July 27, 2019, the first batch of four Boeing AH-64E (I) Apache Guardian Attack Helicopters arrived at Air Force Station Hindon, located near Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. These helicopters were airlifted in an Antonov An-124 strategic airlift aircraft. The second batch of four helicopters are expected to be delivered next week.
 
It may be recalled that IAF had signed a hybrid contract with the US and Boeing Ltd for supply of 22 Apache helicopters where in a part of the Apache deal was signed with Boeing for the helicopter itself and the other with the US government, under Foreign Military Sales route, for its weapons, radars and electronic warfare suites. Thereafter in 2017, the government had approved procurement of six additional helicopters along with their weapons systems. Induction of 22 contracted helicopters is scheduled to be completed by 2020. The test flight of the first AH-64E helicopter contracted for India was completed and formally handed over to the Indian Air Force at Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona, USA on May 10, 2018. Air Marshal AS Butola, represented the Indian Air Force and accepted the first Apache in a ceremony at Boeing production facility. Training of first batch of crew also commenced in US at about the same time.
 
Apache is the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter equipped with laser and infrared systems for day and night operations, and with modern weapon systems—Night Vision Goggles, Fire Control Radar, Hellfire missiles, 70 mm rockets and 30 mm automatic chain gun 
 
The first two batches of helicopters received at Hindon will be assembled, air tested and initially flown there itself for a few weeks and then re-located at Air Force Station Pathankot where they will be formally inducted into the IAF in September 2019. On completion of the delivery of the entire 22 helicopters, IAF plans to locate one squadron each (10 helicopters per squadron) at Pathankot and Jorahat in Assam.
 
IAF first inducted combat helicopter in 1984, when it procured eight Mi-25 helicopters from the then USSR. The first batch of air and ground crew (this author being one of them) had undergone training at the Soviet Air Base located at Frunze in 1983 (now Bishkek—the capital of Kyrgyzstan). A few years later, the Mi-35 helicopters—partially modernised to suit Indian requirements, were inducted and are about to be phased out of service now. In 2015-16 India had provided four Mi-25s to the Afghan armed forces as a trilateral agreement between India-Afghanistan and Belarus wherein Belarus was to upgrade these helicopters.
 
Induction of Apache, which have been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements is a huge technological leap that would prove to be a game changer in IAF’s combat capability. Its capability to operate in different terrains of the Indian sub-continent including the desert and mountains would add a lethal punch to IAF’s capabilities.
 
AH-64 Apache is the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter equipped with laser and infrared systems for day and night operations, and with modern weapon systems—Night Vision Goggles, Fire Control Radar, Hellfire missiles, 70 mm rockets and 30 mm automatic chain gun etc.
 
It can carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile battlefield environment. 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. Induction of such a weapon system along with various other new acquisitions like the Rafale fighter aircraft, C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft, AH 64 Chinook and other surveillance systems are a significant step towards modernisation of Indian Air Force.
 
As a part of Make in India initiative, Boeing and Tata Advanced Systems had established a joint venture named Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited (TBAL) at Hyderabad to co-produce AH-64 Apache helicopter fuselages and other structures, as well as to pursue integrated systems in aerospace. The eventual aim is to establish the TBAL as the sole producer of AH-64 fuselages globally. Within a year of its establishment, TBAL delivered its first AH-64 Apache helicopter fuselage for integration into the final assembly line at Boeing manufacturing facility.
 
Boeing has reportedly delivered over 2,200 Apaches to various customers around the world since the aircraft entered production. At present 14 countries including India are operating these helicopters. The US Army Apache fleet has accumulated (as of July 2016) more than 4.2 million flight hours since the first AH-64A was delivered to the US Army in January 1984. It has proved its mettle in the Gulf War as well as in the on-going Afghanistan conflict.
 
(The writer is a former Commandant of National Defence College of India and Commander-in-Chief of Andaman and Nicobar Command)