IAF Receives First of 22 Apache Helicopters: All You Need to Know

On Friday, 10 May, at the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona, Air Marshal AS Butola, representing the Indian Air Force, accepted the first of the 22 Apache attack helicopters that India has bought from the United States.

When Was the Deal Signed?

The USD 1.4 billion deal was inked nearly four years ago, in September 2015.

India had placed an order of 22 Apache AH-64 multi-purpose attack helicopters, along with an additional order of 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, the same month. Both of these are manufactured by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, a subdivision of the Boeing Company.

The first batch of Apaches are expected to arrive in July.

What is the Apache Capable of?

The Apache AH-64 is a multi-role attack helicopter. It has two mounted guns, which fire high-calibre rounds, along with an additional suite of weapons on its small stub-wings. It seats two.

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Being a helicopter, it is slower, but more manoeuvrable than a fighter jet and can attack targets on the ground and in the air with relative ease. The helicopter has nose mounted target sensors and night vision capability. It can also transmit and receive images of the battlefield, to and from the weapon systems through data networking., which, according to the IAF, makes it a “lethal acquisition”.

The Apache is especially suited to provide assistance to ground forces in the event of a conflict.

Why is India Buying These?

According to the IAF, the helicopter is customised to suit their future requirements.

Apart from being a “lethal acquisition”, Indian defence forces have specific needs that the Apache addresses. For example, it has significant capability in mountainous terrain, which will be useful at the northern borders, in the Himalayan ranges.

India currently has a fleet of only 17 ageing Russian-origin MI-35 attack helicopters.

The Apache also has significant systems redundancy. which means that it has the capacity to be upgraded through time and not become obsolete quickly.

Indian aircrew and ground crew charged with operating these helicopters have already undergone training at the training facilities at US Army base Fort Rucker in Alabama.

Who Else Uses Apache Helicopters?

The Apache is one of the most popular attack helicopters in history. The United States Army currently employs nearly 800 of these.

Apart from that, most US allies also have these helicopters in service, including, but not limited to, Saudi Arabia (more than 100), Israel, United Kingdom and South Korea. Many of these have placed orders with Boeing for more.

Are These for the Air Force or the Army?

The allocation of the Apache Helicopters between the forces has been a matter of much debate.

Since these aircraft are suited to providing close combat support to ground forces and are effective against armoured vehicles and tanks, it was argued that they should be operated by the Indian Army. However, it was pointed out that the Indian Air Force is charged with assisting the army in the first place.

Eventually it was decided that the IAF will raise the 22 helicopters, while the Army will get an additional six in an auxiliary deal. The army has moved a proposal for 30 more.

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