New Delhi: Eight US-made Apache AH-64E attack helicopters were inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet at the Pathankot Air Base in Punjab on Tuesday.  The AH-64E Apache, flown by the US Army is considered one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopters.

Air Force chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, who was the chief guest at the ceremony at Pathankot airbase performed a ‘pooja’ along with Western Air Commander Air Marshal R Nambiar before the induction. The Apache attack helicopters were also given a water salute at the airbase.

“It is one of the most fierce attack helicopters in the world. It is capable of performing many missions, today with the induction of Apache AH-64E, the Indian Air Force has upgraded its inventory to the latest generation of attack helicopters. The Apache helicopters have been modified according to the needs of the IAF. We are very happy with the scheduled delivery of the helicopters on time,” IAF chief Dhanoa said.

Meanwhile, President Boeing India, Salil Gupte, who handed over the ceremonial key of Apache attack helicopter to Dhanoa said,”These are the first 8 of the 22 Apache helicopters that are coming to India Air Force. These are the AH-64E variant, the same variant used by the US Army. These Apache helicopters have the latest technology.”

IAF spokesperson Anupam Banerjee said that the air force had attack helicopters earlier, but this aircraft brings in lethal firepower with great accuracy. “It is a ceremonial induction of the aircraft into IAF. As of now, we have 8 aircraft. 22 aircraft will come in a phased manner and all will be inducted into the IAF. We had attack helicopters earlier, but this aircraft brings in lethal firepower with great accuracy,” Banerjee told reporters.

(President Boeing India, Salil Gupte, handed over the ceremonial key of Apache attack helicopter to Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa)

The Indian Air Force had signed a multi-billion dollar contract with the US government and Boeing Ltd in September 2015 for 22 Apache helicopters. On July 27, 2019, the first four of the 22 helicopters were handed over to the air force at the Hindan airbase by Boeing.

Notably, Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches to customers around the world since the aircraft entered production and India is the 14th nation to select it for its military.

“By 2020, the IAF will operate a fleet of 22 Apaches, and these first deliveries are ahead of schedule,” Boeing had earlier said. The aerospace major further said the AH-64E has the latest technology insertions, maintaining its standing as the world”s best attack helicopter.

“It is the only available combat helicopter with a spectrum of capabilities for virtually any mission requirement. For the AH-64 E, this includes greater thrust and lift, joint digital operability, improved survivability, and cognitive decision aiding. It is uniquely suited to meet the commander’s needs, including reconnaissance, security, peacekeeping operations, and lethal attack – in both land and littoral environments – all without reconfiguration,” it added.

Last year in July, the AH-64E Apache for the Indian Air Force had completed successful first flights. The first batch of the Indian Air Force crew began their training to fly the Apache in the US in 2018. Senior IAF officials said the addition of the Apache fleet will significantly enhance the force’s combat capabilities as the chopper has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements.

(With agency inputs)