The Indian Air Force (IAF) formally inducted into service the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter at Pathankot air base in Punjab near the India-Pakistan border on September 3.
The IAF took delivery of the first eight AH-64E helicopters in July and August of this year at Hindon Air Force Station (AFS) in Ghaziabad outside New Delhi. The first AH-64E was officially handed over to the IAF during a ceremony at Boeing’s production center in Mesa, Arizona, in May.
The helicopters will serve with the IAF’s 125 Helicopter Squadron (125 H SQUADRON) deployed at Pathankot. A second AH-64E squadron will be stood up at Jorhat air base in Assam in northeastern India near the Indo-Chinese border.
Each squadron will consist of ten helicopter gunships with two Ah-64Es held in reserve.
“Alongside the capability to shoot fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missiles, air-to-air missiles, rockets and other ammunition, it also has modern EW [electronic warfare] capabilities to provide versatility to the helicopter in network-centric aerial warfare,” IAF Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said at the induction ceremony. “These aircraft have been modified specifically to suit the exacting standards demanded by the IAF.”
India and the United States concluded a $2.2 billion contract for 22 AH-64Es and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters 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 the Indian government 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 Indian Army’s Aviation Corps (AAC) is also considering procuring its own AH-64E fleet and reportedly 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 helicopters 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.
According to Boeing, the Indian Army is currently in the process of evaluating the acquisition of an initial batch of six AH-64Es.