The Indian Air Force will deploy American Apache multi-role helicopters near Pakistan’s border, as the first four of 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters are set to arrive on 27 July, defence sources told Sputnik.
The formal induction of the AH-64E (I) Apache Guardian in the upcoming month of August will allow for the circumnavigation of low-altitude obstacles - trees and hills - for stealth purposes any time of the day.
This induction will take place at Pathankot airbase, located just 145 km from the border. It is to be the first line of defence against any attack from Pakistan.
Apache Attack Helicopter Deal ::
India had signed the $1.15 billion contract for the procurement of Apache attack helicopters with America’s Boeing on 28 September 2015.
The contract stipulated the delivery of the first consignment between July 2019 and September 2019 and the remaining part of the total shipment between December 2019 and March 2020.
India signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LoA) with the US government for the supply of additional US-controlled items, including aeroplane engines, missiles, radars, etc.
Last year, the US government had also approved the sale of six Apache helicopters complete with weapons systems and support equipment worth $930 million to the Indian military.
The Indian Army will deploy the six additional helicopters to the rugged Himalayan terrain along the China border.
Factors Behind Deploying Apache Near Pakistan’s Border ::
The decision to deploy the first consignment in Pathankot airbase was taken on the backdrop of ongoing tensions with Pakistan since February of this year. Following the Pulwama terror attack in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February, the India Air Force launched airstrikes on 26 February on alleged terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot area. The Pakistan Air Force countered the defensive resulting in a dogfight.
India and Pakistan have been exchanging fire since Saturday on the border, leaving at least one person dead on either side of the border. The ongoing month has witnessed incidents of cross-border exchanges of fire between the two neighbouring countries off and on.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s civil aviation regulator had expressed serious concerns over India’s frontline fighter jets stationed at forwarding air bases in “more than the expected numbers during peacetime”.
The American made helicopters feature two high-performance turboshaft engines and a maximum cruise speed of 284 kilometres per hour. The Apache can carry a maximum of 16 Hellfire missiles giving it unprecedented lethality.
The Indian defence ministry claimed the addition of AH-64 E (I) helicopter would significantly improve capabilities in mountainous terrain. The aircraft can 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 battlefield images 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 Indian defence ministry claimed.
From September this year, the Indian Air Force will start to receive multi-role twin-engine Rafale fighter jets from France, with the first consignment set to deploy at Ambala by May 2020 providing “strategic deterrence and requisite capabilities and a technological edge” to the forces.
Earlier this month, Indian Air Force Vice Chief Air Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria maintained that once the Su-30MKI and the Rafale start operating together, “losses would be much more to Pakistan in case of 27 February-type of operation”.
“We would have larger weapons, and we would have better weapons. The attrition that we will inflict would be very, very high,” the Vice Chief Air Marshal added.