The Indian Air Force (IAF) commissioned its first batch of eight Boeing 'AH-64E(I)' Apache Guardian helicopters in a ceremony held on 3 September at the Pathankot Air Force Station (AFS) in northwestern India near the border with Pakistan.
"The Apaches will upgrade the IAF's inventory to include the world's latest attack helicopters," said Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa while inducting the twin-engined rotorcraft into the IAFs' 125 'Gladiators' Helicopter Squadron.
Modified to suit the "exacting standards" demanded by IAF, the Apaches will be deployed on multiple missions, including suppressing enemy defences, as well as in an air-to-air support role, he added.
The eight attack helicopters were delivered to Hindon AFS on New Delhi's outskirts in late July, several weeks ahead of schedule, aboard an Antonov An-124 'Condor' strategic airlifter. The platforms were then assembled, flight tested, and flown to Pathankot.
The recently inducted Apaches are part of a USD2.02 billion order placed by the IAF in 2015 for 22 such rotorcraft. Delivery of the remaining 14 helicopters is scheduled to be completed by 2020, according to Boeing officials.
Of the 22 Apaches, all of which have been specially customised to operate in mountainous terrain, 10 will be based at Pathankot, while a second squadron featuring an equal number of platforms will be stationed in northeast India near the country's disputed border with China.
The two remaining Apaches will be held as reserves in the event of accidents or combat losses.
IAF officials said the Apaches will initially supplement and later replace the service's ageing fleet of about 20 upgraded Mil Mi-25/35 combat helicopters, the first of which were inducted into service three decades ago.
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