The Indian Air Force (IAF) is scheduled to take delivery in August of the first four of 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters. The CCS approval came just over a year after the procurement was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in August, last year, for the deal which is valued at an estimated Rs 14,500 crore (USD 2.2 billion).

Boeing sources told Jane’s on 11 April that the twin-engined helicopters will be transported by a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft to Pathankot Air Force Station in northern India, where they are to be assembled ahead of their formal induction into service by the end of the year.

The IAF AH-64E Block III Apaches are expected to feature a 99 per cent commonality with helicopter used by the US Army only incorporating minor changes such as different radios and datalinks and dual mode landing lights for Night Vision Goggle (NVG) operation. Usage of composites on the Block III is far greater than earlier versions of the Apache by up to 30 per cent and the main rotor blades and spars, equipment fairings and tail stabiliser are entirely of composite construction.

The Block III has a full open system architecture with ‘plug and play’ capability and the avionics bays have also been enlarged. The cockpit has been reconfigured for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). Low light flying capability with Night Vision Goggles (NVG) has been enhanced with specially configured lights fitted outside the aircraft. The Block III is powered by twin T700-GE-701D engines, fitted with an enhanced digital engine control unit and comes with an upgraded transmission system to cater for the increase in power to 3,400 shp. 

The Block III has the ability able to hover at 6,000 feet (at 35 degrees centigrade) when carrying a 1,500 kg payload as compared to earlier variant which could only hover at a height of 4,000 feet and that too with lower payload. The aircraft that flew to India for the trials was a modified Block II helicopter with a significant amount of Block III parts. It had all the performance upgrades of the Block III but not the avionics fit reports ForceIndia.

As per the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notification in 2010, 12 out of 22 helicopters will be fitted with the highly regarded ‘Longbow’ FCR and all will be fitted with the Target Acquisition Designation Sight (TADS) and Pilot Night Vision Sensors (PNVS). The munitions to be acquired as per the notification were 812 AGM-114L-3 HELLFIRE LONGBOW missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 HELLFIRE II missiles and 245 STINGER Block I-92H missiles. The helicopters come with an Orbital LW30mm M230 Chain gun automatic cannon which has a rate of fire of 625 rounds per minute. For more than a decade now, the sophisticated Longbow FCR has provided Apache air crews with target detection, location, classification and prioritisation capability. The radar can discriminate between stationary targets and their background, a capability that many have tried to replicate without success. The radar allows automatic and multi-target engagement capability in any weather and according to company sources, enhances the lethality of the Apace four fold and survivability seven fold, over the earlier A model Apache.

Delivery of the remaining 18 platforms is expected to be completed by the end of 2020, Boeing sources confirmed.

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