Eight Apache AH-64E stealth attack helicopters, among the most advanced military flying machines in the world, joined the Indian Air Force on Tuesday, providing a significant boost to its combat capabilities at a time of complex security challenges.
How do the Apaches enhance the attack helicopter capabilities of the IAF at this stage, since it already has the Russian Mi-24/Mi-35 gunships in its inventory?
One of the major reasons why the IAF decided to go in for the Apaches is their ability to operate at much higher altitudes than the aging Russian attack helicopters and, of course, because of the advanced technical abilities that come with the American-made helicopter.
The Mi-35 could not operate in the Kargil conflict at the heights that the IAF wanted it to be used in support of the Army. While the primary task of the attack helicopter gunship is in support of mechanised armoured formations, yet the adaptability of the inventory to be used elsewhere is also important.
The Russian gunships were made for an era when a dual role was envisaged for them. Thus, in addition to their attack role, they have cabin space for eight soldiers, who can be speedily dropped behind enemy positions. The Apache does not have any cargo role, and is, in comparison, smaller and more nimble.
Among the Apache’s modern capabilities are the ability to shoot fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles, rockets, and other munitions. It also has modern electronic warfare capabilities to provide versatility in network-centric aerial warfare.
So, how many Apaches will replace the IAF’s Mi-35s?
IAF had signed a contract with aerospace major Boeing and the United States government in 2015 for 22 Apache AH-64Es. The first eight of these attack helicopters have been delivered on schedule, and the last of the choppers is to be delivered by March 2020.
These helicopters will be deployed in the western regions of the country. In addition to these machines, another six helicopters are being procured for the Indian Army, which will enhance mechanised operations comprising tanks and infantry combat vehicles in desert and semi-desert regions.
Will all the Apaches be in flyaway condition, or does the deal involve local production?
The Apaches are being received in a semi-flyaway condition, as were the Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, also manufactured by Boeing. After affixing their rotors, the aircraft are able to fly on their own.
There is an agreement between Boeing and Tata to manufacture the fuselage of the Apaches in India under the joint-venture Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited, Hyderabad. It is not known if any of these fuselages have been used in the eight Apaches delivered so far.
Who is supplying the firepower for the Apaches? What weaponry does an Apache carry?
The firepower in the Apaches is being integrated with the helicopter by Boeing itself in the United States. The helicopter is capable of delivering a variety of weapons, which include air-to-ground Hellfire missiles, 70 mm Hydra rockets, and air-to-air Stinger missiles.
The Apaches also carry a 30 mm chain gun with 1,200 rounds as part of the area weapon subsystem. The helicopter carries the fire control Longbow radar, which has 360-degree coverage, and a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night-vision systems.
The weapons and radar systems in the helicopter will enhance the capability of the IAF in providing integrated combat aviation cover to the Army strike corps. These tandem seating helicopters are day/night, all weather capable, and have high agility and survivability against battle damage. These are easily maintainable even in field conditions, and are capable of prolonged operations in tropical and desert regions.
When and where did IAF pilots train on the Apaches before the induction?
The IAF pilots who were to fly the Apaches began their training on the helicopters in the United States in 2018. The US Army provided the training to the fleet’s pilots and maintenance personnel at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Which other countries fly these attack helicopters?
Boeing’s global customers for the Apache include Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, apart from the United States Army. The company said in a statement that India was the 16th nation to procure the helicopter, and that it was receiving the most advanced variant.
IN THE COCKPIT
# Visual and aural cues
# Multipurpose colour displays
# Digitally shared graphics
# Automated data input
# 4 Stinger missiles
# 16 Hellfire missiles
# 76 rockets
# 1,200 rounds of 30 mm calibre