The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) first batch of Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters will arrive at Hindon Airbase in Ghaziabad in northern India on an Antonov AN 224 transport aircraft on July 27, according to local media reports.
The first batch will reportedly consist of three to four AH-64Es. Following final assembly and a number of user trials, the helicopters will be sent to Pathankot air base, near the India-Pakistan border, for a final induction into service.
The first IAF unit to receive the new helicopter gunships will be the 125 Helicopter Squadron (125 H SQUADRON) deployed at Pathankot. The second AH-64E-equipped squadron will reportedly be stationed at Jorhat air base in Assam.
Previous reports said that first four helicopters would arrive on a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft at Pathankot, where they also will be assembled. Neither the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) nor the IAF have publicly commented on the place and time of delivery.
The first AH-64E was officially handed over to the IAF during a ceremony at Boeing’s production center in Mesa, Arizona, on May 10. Air and ground crews for the AH-64Es have undergone extensive training over the last couple of months at Fort Rocker, Alabama.
The Indian government signed a $2.2 billion contract with the U.S. government and Boeing for 22 AH-64Es and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters for the IAF in September 2015. The first four Chinook heavy-lift helicopters were inducted into IAF service this March.
Under a contract clause, the IAF can place follow-on order for 11 extra AH-64Es and seven Chinooks at a fixed price that was agreed upon in 2013. Notably, Tata Boeing Aerospace Ltd (TBAL), a joint venture between Boeing and Tata Advanced Systems set up a facility to produce fuselages for the AH-64 Apache helicopter in Hyderabad in early 2018.
A prolonged inter-service rivalry between the IAF and the Indian Army’s Aviation Corps (AAC) preceded the decision to procure the new helicopter gunships. As I reported:
[T]he prolonged negotiations over the initial batch of 22 Apache helicopters are partially to blame for the interservice rivalry. In 2012, then Indian National Security Advisor Shankar Menon decided that any new attack helicopters procured would go the Army. The Air Force, however, countered that it had already begun the acquisition process in 2012. Following extensive field trials, the Indian Air Force selected the Apache gunship and the Chinook helicopter in 2009.
The AAC is now pursuing a separate procurement track under under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, overseen by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Overall, the AAC wants to deploy three separate AH-64E squadrons with a total of 39 helicopters and is currently in talks with the U.S. government for an initial batch of six helicopter gunships.