The Indian Army has finally received the go-ahead for something it has been asking for several years now - a new Attack Helicopter Squadron. The Indian Defence Ministry has on Thursday, 17 August, cleared the request of the Army to acquire six AH-64E Apache heavy-duty attack Helicopters.
The approval has been pending since September 2015 when the Army asked for the helicopters as a follow-up contract to the much bigger, Rs 13,952 crore deal inked by the Indian Air Force for 22 of the same helicopters.
The Indian Air Force had sternly opposed the Army's acquisition of helicopters for nearly two years now, as the Air Force is supposed to be in-charge of all aerial warfare. However, the Army's argument was that it should have full command and control on tactical air assets, so that they can be deployed alongside the strike corps without even a slight delay, while the IAF can concentrate on its larger, strategic role.
The Army already has in its arsenal, two helicopter squadrons, operating ageing Russian made Mil Mi-25 and Mi-35 helicopters, the earliest of which was made in 1972. It is obvious that the Army would want to replace them as soon as possible. The approval received from the Defence Acquisitions Council on Thursday will soon re-equip the Army to take on the enemy with a modern, state-of-the-art attack helicopter.
The Indian Air Force will take deliveries of the 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters starting July 2019. The helicopters are fully-specced variants, equipped with 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire-II missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles and 12 AN/APG-78 fire-control radars.
These are some of the most modern and sophisticated weaponry in today's time and age. The same is used by American forces too. Immediately after the IAF completes taking delivery of the AH-64E Apache, the Army would be next in line, adding a third attack helicopter squadron.
About the AH-64E Attack Helicopter:
The AH-64E Apache is a state-of-the-art attack helicopter manufactured by American aviation giant Boeing. The helicopter first made its debut in 1975, bring manufactured by Hughes Helicopters. The rights to manufacture were later taken over by McDonnell Douglas in 1984 before Boeing took over in 1997. Over 2,000 AH-64s have been produced till date, in its various iterations over time.
The AH-64‘E' is the latest and most advanced iteration of the helicopter, after all, it is the latest one in the line-up of AH-64s, coming after ‘A', ‘B', ‘C, and ‘D'. Boeing conceptualised the next iteration of the AH-64 in 2014, called the AH-64F, which is forecasted to replace the current one by 2040.
The AH-64 Apache is a legend of sorts among the aviation fraternity, having played a vital role in big international conflicts. American AH-64s have served in the invasion of Panama, in the Gulf war, in the Kosovo war, in the Afghanistan campaign, and also in the Iraqi war. Israel used the Apache in its military conflicts in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip while British and Dutch Apaches have seen deployments in the Afghani and Iraqi wars.
One of the revolutionary features of the Apache is its helmet mounted display involving the Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS). The pilot or gunner can aim the helicopter's 30 mm automatic M230 Chain Gun to the position they are looking at. So, all they have to do is look at the target and fire. The avionics also features advanced night-vision systems.
The list of advanced features on this helicopter is almost endless, and it is indeed a huge advantage for Indian troops to have such a machine on our side. Having it serve in both the Indian Air force and also the Indian Army is even more advantageous for our defence forces.
While the Army can use their Apaches to back up the ground troops in known areas of conflict, the Air Force can use them to provide emergency backup. For example in the current scenario, If the helicopters were already here, the Indian Army could position a few of their choppers at Doklam, amidst the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops. The Air Force on the other hand could take care of areas in Kashmir and Rajasthan, bordering Pakistan.