Apache Helicopters and Strengthening of Indian Air Force
Search 4th September 2019: http://www.newsonair.com/Main_Audio_Bulletins_Search.aspx
TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Inclusive Growth
In News: The battle-proven Apache attack helicopter was inducted into the Indian Air Force, boosting its capabilities for conducting cross-border hits on terrorist launch pads and improving its strike packages with fighter jets. By 2020, the IAF will operate a fleet of 22 Apaches.
Eight Apache AH-64E (I) helicopters were inducted into the IAF at the Pathankot front line air base which is located near the India-Pakistan border. This new 125 Squadron is called the ‘Gladiators’.
- IAF had signed a contract with US Government and M/s Boeing Ltd in Sep 2015 for 22 Apache helicopters.
- Selected aircrew and ground crew have undergone training at the training facilities at US Army base Fort Rucker, Alabama. These personnel will lead the operationalisation of the Apache fleet in the IAF.
The Apaches will be used in war games and real time exercises in the next six to eight months. Officials explained that while the Apache’s pilots and crew, who have been trained in the US, understand the basics of the helicopter, including operating it, an exercise will give a greater insight into how it can be used tactically and in different missions. It will be also seen how well the Apaches operate in high-altitude areas, especially valleys, given that it has better maneuverability and is lighter than the Mi-35 attack helicopter it is replacing.
What does this mean for India?
The Apache is seen as the first attack helicopter in India’s defence arsenal. India has been operating the Russian origin Mi 35 for years and the Apaches are set to replace the Russian-made choppers that are now on the verge of being taken out of service. The Mi-35 was seen as an assault chopper designed to carry troops into heavily defended territories. The two pilot Apache on the other hand is seen as a dedicated attack chopper, which according to defence analysts, will be a “game changer” in the tactical battle scenario.
The addition of AH-64 E (I) helicopter is a significant step towards modernisation of Indian Air Force’s helicopter fleet. This procurement will enhance the capability of IAF in providing integrated combat aviation cover to the army strike corps.
- The helicopter has been customized to suit IAF’s future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain. The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground.
- The ability of these helicopters, to transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems through data networking makes it a lethal acquisition. These attack helicopters will provide significant edge in any future joint operations in support of land forces.
- The Apaches can be used in different missions- escorting troops and supplies, anti-armour, suppressing enemy air defence and play a battlefield role.
- With the capability to shoot fire and forget anti-tank guided missiles, air to air missiles, rockets and other ammunitions, the Apache also has modern electronic warfare capabilities to provide versatility to itself in a network centric aerial warfare.
- The Apache has a variety of weapons, including air to ground Hellfire missiles, 70 mm Hydra rockets and air to air Stinger missiles. This is the first time that the IAF has a helicopter in its inventory which can fire air to air missiles. The Apache also carries a 30 mm chain gun with 1200 rounds, has a nose mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. Its cockpit is bulletproof, making it ideal for use against tanks and armoured vehicles.
- The helicopter’s front mounted guns can be used to attack terrorist hideouts in difficult mountain terrain. It’s “fire-and-forget” Hellfire missiles can destroy armoured carriers and tanks among enemy ranks and provides crucial protection for moving ground forces and tanks in the battle field.
- The Apache’s rotor mounted radar can transmit battlefield pictures to Airborne Warning and Controls Systems (Awacs) mounted on other aircraft.
- The Apache’s forward looking infra-red radar can locate targets through dense foliage thanks to its heat-seeking capabilities that then provides pilots with pictures of the target. The helicopter is capable of flying “further, lower and faster” than other similar machines. Lower means that it cannot be picked up by radar, while literally skimming the earth.
The Way Forward
There is a need for integrating the multi-role combat choppers with ground forces for better operational capabilities, logistics and training. Any equipment is better held with one particular service for better operations, logistics and maintenance. With two different services, there will be bureaucratic hassles even for training purposes.