The Apache attack helicopter comes equipped with laser and infrared systems for day and night operations and armed with air to surface Hellfire missiles, 70 mm rockets and an automatic cannon. Handout.

The combat ability of the Indian Air Force received a much expected boost on Saturday with the delivery of the first four of 22 state-of-the-art Apache attack helicopters, PTI reported.

US aerospace major Boeing said an additional batch of four choppers will be delivered next week.

The arrival of the four AH-64E Apache helicopters at Hindan air base came nearly four years after a multi-billion dollar deal was sealed between the two countries, The Indian Express reported.

After the delivery of the second batch, the choppers will be shifted to Pathankot for their formal induction by the IAF.

“The eight choppers will then move to the Pathankot Air Force station for their formal induction by the IAF, in September,” Boeing said.

The AH-64E Apache is one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopters and is flown by the US Army. Its delivery to the IAF represents a major boost to India’s defence arsenal.

It includes greater thrust and lift, joint digital operability, improved survivability and cognitive decision aiding and is designed to meet the needs of reconnaissance, security, peacekeeping operations, and lethal attack in land as well as littoral environments, without reconfiguration.

It comes equipped with laser and infrared systems for day and night operations and armed with air to surface Hellfire missiles, 70 mm rockets and an automatic cannon.

In September 2015, the IAF had signed a multi-billion dollar contract with the US government and Boeing for 22 Apache helicopters.

Additionally, the Defence Ministry in 2017 approved the procurement of six Apache helicopters along with weapons systems from Boeing at a cost of Rs 4,168 crore for the Army, the Indian Express report said.

The addition of the Apache fleet will significantly enhance the force’s combat capabilities as the chopper has been customized to suit IAF’s future requirements, according to senior IAF officials.

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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.

India has been operating the Russian origin Mi 35 for years and the Apaches are set to replace the Russian-made choppers that are now on the verge of being taken out of service.

The Mi-35 was seen as an assault chopper designed to carry troops into heavily defended territories. The two pilot Apache on the other hand is seen as a dedicated attack chopper, which according to defence analysts, will be a “game changer” in the tactical battle scenario.

Further enhancing the military ties between the two nations, the US has approved foreign military sales worth USD 670 million to support India’s C-17 military transport aircraft.

On Friday, the Trump Administration had notified the Congress of its decision in this regard after a recent Indian request to buy equipment for C-17 follow-on support, to include spares and repair parts, support equipment, and personnel training and training equipment among others.

Sources: India Times, The Indian Express, Boeing, LiveMint

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