New Delhi: After several years of wrangling, the Indian Army and Indian Air Force (IAF) are both likely to operate the Apache multi-role attack helicopters. The Army, which has long pitched for its own dedicated fleet of attack helicopters, is likely to get its way through, sources said. The Boeing AH-64 Apache is an American four-blade, twin-turboshaft attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for a two-man crew. It features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. It is armed with a 30 mm (1.18 in) M230 chain gun carried between the main landing gear, under the aircraft’s forward fuselage.
With India and China, two of the fastest growing economies in the world, engaged in months-long standoff in Doklam, the world is sure to take note of it. For that reason, India is planning to deploy its deadly American Apache attack helicopters at the sensitive Pathankot airbase in Punjab as well as Jorhat in Assam to fortify the northeastern sector. The defence ministry cleared a $2.2 billion contract with the US in 2015 for 22 Apache attack helicopters that will strengthen the Indian Air Force’s capabilities on the frontiers with Pakistan and China.
The infrastructure for hosting the helicopters in the two bases would also be completed as per the delivery schedule along with the other requirements at these bases. Indian pilots and air crew are also getting trained on the new choppers so that they can operate the helicopters when they arrive in India. The preparation of the Indian crew is also part of the deal that the two sides signed.
The Air Force has been flying the attack helicopters for a long time in support of Army’s operations but the land force now wants to control the aerial assets also as it feels that its pilots would be better suited to support operations on the ground. In this regard, the Army is also moving a case for acquiring 11 Apache choppers as part of the repeat order for the ones the IAF is getting. Apache will be the first pure attack helicopter in the Indian forces.
The IAF already operates two squadrons of the Russian origin Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, which are deployed close to the front lines on the Pakistan border. But these choppers are on the verge of retirement and were designed only to carry troops into heavily defended territories. Equipped with laser and infrared systems for all weather, day-night operability, the Apache fires the Hellfire air-to-air missiles apart from its arsenal of 70-mm rockets and automatic cannon.
Since the standoff, India has constantly batted for a dialogue but China has demanded immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Indian troops before a dialogue or peace process is initiated.