Apache helicopters will enhance operation capabilities of IAF as strike force: Dhanoa

Pathankot: Apache stealth attack helicopters have been part of numerous historic campaigns worldwide and the newly-inducted AH-64E helicopters, armed with cutting-edge technology, will enhance the operational capabilities of the IAF as the strike force, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said on Tuesday.

He was speaking at a ceremony held at the Pathankot Air Force station to induct eight US-made Apache helicopters into the Indian Air Force.

“Apache AH-64E attack helicopters will replace the ageing Mi-35 fleet. A total of 22 Apaches are to delivered and the first eight helicopters have been delivered on time,” he said.

The helicopters are equipped with advanced weaponry system, which includes air-to-air Stinger missiles, air-to-ground Hellfire missiles, 70 mm Hydra rockets, and one 30 mm chain gun with 1200 rounds, the IAF said.

The eight helicopters have been delivered on schedule and the last batch is to be delivered by March 2020, the IAF said, adding that these will be deployed in the western regions of the country.

“These Apaches have been modified to suit the exacting standards demanded by the IAF… Alongside the capability to shoot fire and forget anti-tank missiles, it has air-to-air missiles, rockets and other ammunition, and it also has modern electronic warfare capabilities to provide versatility to the helicopter,” Dhanoa said.

“These attack helicopters will enhance the operation capabilities of the IAF as the strike force,” the IAF chief said.

The induction of Apache helicopters is a significant step towards modernisation of the IAF fleet, he said.

The twin-engine, two-crew tandem seating helicopter has a glass cockpit and can reach a speed up to 186 knots, and has a combat radius of 300 miles, the IAF said.

All-weather helicopters, Apaches are capable of operating day and night and have a very high agility and survivability against battle damage, a senior IAF official said.

Dhanoa, in his address during the induction ceremony, described Apache as “one of the most fierce attack helicopters in the world”.

“They have been part of numerous historic campaigns worldwide…Apaches are capable of performing many missions like in heli-borne operations, suppression of enemy air defence and battlefield air strike roles,” he said.

The AH-64E Apache is one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopters, and is flown by the US Army. The IAF had signed a multi-billion dollar contract with the US government and Boeing Ltd in September 2015 for 22 Apache helicopters.

The eight helicopters have been delivered on schedule and the rest are expected to be delivered by 2020.

The eight Apache helicopters are part of the 125 Helicopter Squadron, known as the Gladiators and based at the Pathankot Air Force station.

In his speech, Dhanoa also charted the history of helicopters which have been in the inventory of the IAF.

“Since 1954, when IAF inducted Sikorsky S-55 as part of the newly-raised 104 helicopter unit, there has been no looking back for these rotary wings. The IAF helicopters have proved their mettle in various missions and operations worldwide,” he said.

Dhanoa said the IAF helicopter inventory varies from Cheetah, Chetak to the mighty Mi-35. Armed helicopters Mi-35 remained an attack helicopter for the IAF and they have served the IAF for over three decades in Indian missions and peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Congo.

He said with the induction of Apache, the IAF has upgraded its inventory to the latest version of attack helicopters.