The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) first batch of four Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters arrived at the Hindon Air Force Station (AFS) in Ghaziabad outside New Delhi on 27 July, a few weeks ahead of the delivery schedule, according to the IAF.
The four helicopter gunships arrived in an Antonov An-124 ‘Condor’ strategic airlifter. Four more AH-64Es are expected to be delivered before August 3. All eight helicopters will be assembled at Hindon AFS after which they will be sent to Pathankot air base, near the India-Pakistan border, for final induction into service with the IAF.
Previous reports said that first four helicopters would arrive on a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft at Pathankot. According to Boeing officials who spoke to IHS Jane’s, the delivery plans were slightly revised.
The first IAF unit to receive the new AH-64E will be the 125 Helicopter Squadron (125 H SQUADRON) deployed at Pathankot. The second AH-64E-equipped IAF squadron will reportedly be stationed at Jorhat air base in Assam in northeastern India near the Indo-Chinese border. Each squadron will consist of ten Ah-64E helicopter gunships.
Two AH-64Es will be held in reserve by the IAF.
India inked a $2.2 billion contract with the U.S. government and Boeing for 22 AH-64Es and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters destined for service in the IAF in September 2015. The contract combines a direct commercial sale with Boeing and a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense.
The 2015 contract stipulates that India can place a follow-on order for 11 additional AH-64Es and seven Chinooks at a fixed price that was agreed upon in 2013. The first four Chinook heavy-lift helicopters entered service with the IAF in March 2019.
The Indian Army’s Aviation Corps (AAC) is also in the process of procuring AH-64Es and intends to stand up three separate AH-64E squadrons with a total of up to 39 helicopters. The AAC and the IAF have been locked in an inter-service rivalry over the new platforms for a number of years, as I reported previously:
[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 first AH-64E was officially handed over to the IAF during a ceremony at Boeing’s production center in Mesa, Arizona, on May 10.