First Apache Guardian attack helicopter delivered to India
The Indian Air Force took delivery of its first AH 64 E (I) Apache helicopter at the Boeing production facility in Mesa Arizona on May 10. This is the first of 22 attack helicopters purchased as part of an INR 139.5 billion deal signed in September 2015. The first four helicopters will be delivered in July via C-17 Globemaster III at the Pathankot Airforce base, where they will be assembled before formal induction into the IAF’s helicopter fleet. The remaining 18 aircraft will be delivered by the end of 2020.
11 of the 22 helicopters will be stationed at Pathankot, with the rest of them being based at the IAF base at Jorhat. This is to counter both Pakistani and Chinese forces in the event of an attack from either the eastern or the western front.
The IAF has already sent a handpicked delegation of air and ground crew who have undergone training at Fort Rucker in Alabama and will lead the induction of the Apache into the Indian Air Force.
The addition of the AH-64 E (I) helicopter is a significant step towards modernization of the Indian Air Force’s helicopter fleet. 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 the 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 a significant edge in any future joint operations in support of land forces. The AH 64 E (I) will be a massive force multiplier and is considered one of the finest attack helicopters in existence.
About the Apache Guardian
The Apache Guardian is a twin-seater and is powered by two General Electric T700-GE-701D turboshaft engines, each developing 1994 hp. This brings the total power output of the unit to a massive 4000 hp, giving it a top speed of 300kph and a service ceiling of 6.4km. The range of the Apache Guardian is 476km. It was earlier called the AH-64D Block III.
This lethal attack helicopter can be equipped with a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry. It has four hardpoints on stub wings. The full loadout includes:
- A chin-mounted 30mm M230 cannon (1200 rounds maximum load)
- 16 AGM -114R Hellfire 2 anti-tank missiles
- 4 AIM-92 Stinger heat-seeking missiles OR 4 Mistral missiles
- 2 AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
- 2 AGM-122 Sidearm anti-radiation missiles
- 2 19-shot rocket pods with Hydra-70 unguided rockets
The Apache Guardian is also equipped with a full array of avionics and electronics sensors, an infra-red suppressing exhaust system, chaff, and flare system and an integrated helmet display system for both pilots. The attack helo can withstand hits from 12.7mm guns to the fuselage and from 23mm weapons to the blades and is equipped with a Boran armor-plated canopy and crash-resistant seats. All of this improves the survivability of the Apache Guardian.
The helicopters will be fitted with a Longbow fire control radar, also used on the previous AH-64D variant. This allows the pilots to fire the AGM-114R Hellfire-2 anti-tank guided missiles in fire-and-forget mode. The Longbow radar can detect, classify and prioritize 12 targets simultaneously, in all weather, at night and in conditions that would otherwise render optical or infra-red sensors ineffective.
The main rivals of the Apache Guardians will be the following helicopters.
- Bell AH-1Z Viper ( operated by Pakistan)
2. TAI T-129 Atak (operated by Pakistan)
3. Z-10 (built and operated by China)
4. Ka-52 (built and operated by Russia)
5. Denel AH-2 Rooivalk (built and operated by South Africa)
6. Augusta A-129 Mangusta (built and operated by Italy)
While the purchase of the Apache Guardian is huge news, here are some questions that need to be answered
- It is alleged that only 12 out of the 22 helos will be equipped with the Longbow radar. If true, why so?
- Will Boeing set up an Apache manufacturing unit in India in the meanwhile?
- Can the Apache fully replace the cheaper, albeit older Russian equipment (Mi 24)?
- How will the Light Combat Helicopter compare with the Apache Guardian?
Since the Indian Air Force had been relying on the Russian Mi-24 and the Mi-35 to provide close air support for many years, the Apache will exponentially multiply the IAF’s quick-reaction capacity.
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