The AH-64E Apache was inducted into the IAF’s helicopter inventory by IAF Chief B S Dhanoa

PATHANKOT: Eight US made Apache attack helicopters were inducted into the Indian Air Force at the Pathankot air base near the India Pakistan border on Tuesday.

Apache attack helicopter are being purchased to replace the ageing Mi-35 helicopter attack fleet, Dhanoa said. “Alongside the capability to shoot fire and forget anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles, rockets and other ammunition, it also has modern electronic warfare capabilities to provide versatility to the helicopter in a network centric aerial warfare,” the IAF Chief said.

The helicopter has air to ground Hellfire missiles, 70 mm Hydra rockets and air to air Stinger missiles. It also has a 30 mm chain gun.

The Apaches have been specifically modified to suit the requirements of the IAF. “I am happy to note that the delivery schedule is on time with eight helicopters already being delivered,” he said.

The Apaches are part of the 125 Helicopter Squadron, also known as the Gladiators, at the Pathankot air base. “The next batch of the Apaches will be inducted into the 137 Helicopter Squadron,” said Air Marshal R Nambiar, who heads the Western Air Command. The Pathankot base is under this command.

IAF had signed a contract with the US Government and US aerospace major, Boeing, September 2015 for 22 Apache helicopters. The last batch if helicopters is to be delivered by March 2020. The Apaches will be deployed along the western border with Pakistan. Plans are also there for a base in the North East.

“The plains of Punjab have been a main battleground. The Apaches will not only add punch to the IAF, but also the Indian Army operations,” he said.

The Apache helicopter was formally handed over to the Indian Air Force at the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona, US on May 10. The first batch of the Apaches arrived in India in July at the IAF Hindon Airbase in Ghaziabad. After a series of user trails, the Apache helicopters were sent to the Pathankot Air Base for a final induction into service.

Selected aircrew and ground crew have undergone training at the training facilities at US Army base Fort Rucker, Alabama.