On Monday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) held a ceremony to formally induct the first two units of CH-47F(I) Chinook heavy lift helicopters. India concluded a contract with U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing in September 2015 to purchase 15 units. India took delivery of four helicopters earlier this year, as The Diplomat reported.
The first Chinooks were commissioned into the Indian Air Force’s 126 Helicopter Unit, which also operates Russian-made Mi-26 helicopters. The IAF’s 126 Helicopter Unit will be the only such unit anywhere in the world to operate both types of helicopters.
As the induction ceremony took place in India, twelve pilots and twelve flight engineers with the IAF attended training to operate the Chinooks in the United States, according to one report.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
“The addition of ‘heavy-lift’ CH 47 F (I) helicopter is a significant step towards modernisation of Indian Air Force’s helicopter fleet,” the IAF noted in a statement.
“The helicopter has been customized to suit IAF’s future requirements and capability roadmap,” it added. “The helicopter has a fully integrated digital cockpit management system, advanced cargo handling capabilities and electronic warfare suite that complement the aircraft’s performance.”
The IAF will eventually deploy the first Chinooks in India’s northern and eastern regions, where the helicopters will provide an important strategic heavy lift capability granting quicker access to inaccessible mountainous areas.
The CH-47 is rated to carry a payload of more than 10,000 kg and has a maximum range of 740 km. Its maximum flight altitude is 6,100 m. The Chinook is operated by a range of U.S. partners and allies, including Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and South Korea.
Aside from the capabilities gained by the IAF, India’s purchase of the Chinook marks the continued deepening of defense ties between New Delhi and Washington. At their first meeting in June 2017, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald J. Trump “pledged to deepen defense and security cooperation, building on the United States’ recognition of India as a Major Defense Partner.”
The statement added that they “look forward to working together on advanced defense equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States.”
In 2016, the Obama administration deemed India a “major defense partner” for the United States, a bespoke status that is comparable to major non-NATO ally status.