“India faces multiple security challenges and that a vertical lift capability across a diversified terrain is required.” – Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa
India has hostile neighbourhood bordering rough, mountainous Himalayan terrain in the North and the North East of India. Mountains, dense forest and other diverse terrains are not connected with wide roads and building airstrips is a huge challenge there. So, heli-lifting is the only option for troop transfer, logistics operations, heavy weapons, sensitive equipments apart from combat operations. After Kargil war in 1999, there has been focus on military capabilities in mountain terrains. Moreover, India has fleet of almost four decades old Russian attack helicopters Mi-35 and heavy lift Mi-26’s which are to be retired.
Recently, taking a significant step towards modernisation of Indian Air Force’s helicopter fleet, Modi government inducted heavy-lift, multi-mission Chinook (CH-47F(I) ) helicopters. Also, the second batch of advanced multi-role attack helicopters acquired from the USA, Apache Guardian (AH-64E (I)), are inducted in Indian Air Force (IAF).
A brief history of the deal
- 2009: Acquisition process for the two helicopters started by UPA. It was to be completed by December 2012
- 2013: Despite completing negotiations due to bureaucratic delays under UPA, India could not acquire the helicopters.
- 2015: Modi government signed contract with M/s Boeing USA and Letter of Agreement (LOA) with US Government.
- March 2019: IAF formally inducted the CH 47 F(I)- Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.
- September 2019: AH-64E(I) Apache attack helicopter inducted into the IAF forward base Pathankot.
Need for multi-role helicopters in modern warfare
- In hybrid warfare, special operations are carried out to achieve national objectives. Helicopters help in carrying small teams and support the operations.
- Helicopters act as force multiplier given to their ability to transport men and material at the right spot in the shortest possible time, both in war and counter-insurgency operations.
- Anti-tank operations and close air support to land forces are big advantages of helicopters as they suit different types of flight environments.
- They can improve battlespace transparency in conjunction with UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles)/Drones.
- Helicopters provide the option of directing weapon fire in multiple directions compared to aircraft.
- Multirole helicopters reduce cost using a common airframe for various roles such as air-to-air combat role, air-to-surface attacks, rescue, electronic warfare etc.
So, introduction Chinook and Apache helicopters are expected to enhance the secutiry of India. The IAF had placed the order of 15 Chinook in 2015 along with 22 Apache attack helicopters. By 2020, IAF will have the delivery of all Apache. Notheless, Indian industry partners of Boeing such as Dynamatics are building large sections of Chinook, and the Tata Boeing joint venture in Hyderabad is building the complete fuselage of the Apache boosting Make in India.
Features of Apache helicopters AH-64E (I)
- World’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter. It is manufactured by Boeing and used by USA Army.
- Capability to shoot fire and forget anti-tank guided missiles, air to air missiles, rockets and ammunition.
- Capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from the ground.
- Modern electronic warfare (EW) capabilities to provide versatility to helicopter in a network-centric aerial warfare
- Transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems through data networking.
- Capability to control UAVs. These attack helicopters will provide a significant edge in any future joint operations in support of land forces.
- All-weather, day-night operability as it is equipped with laser and infrared systems.
Features of Chinook helicopters CH-47F (I)
- Multi-role, vertical-lift platform, which is used for transport of troops, artillery, equipment and fuel.
- High manoeuvrability, all-weather suitable for mountainous terrain.
- Fully integrated digital cockpit management system, advanced cargo handling capabilities and electronic warfare suite that complement the aircraft’s performance.
- Capable of airlifting diverse military and non-military loads into remote locations.
- Unmatched strategic airlift capability across the full spectrum of combat and humanitarian missions.
Thus, induction of Apache and Chinook will be game-changer ensuring secure, prosperous New India.