Updated: Feb 1
Fighter jets may make an Airforce powerful and robust by lifting its attack and reconnaissance capabilities. Still, apart from fighter jets, helicopters are the attackers that a powerful Airforce needs to operate in various environments and regions where a fighter jet cannot operate. Attack helicopters need a normal base helipad to take-off, while most fighter jets don’t have vertical take-off capabilities. This puts attack helicopters at the top of the list for nations with regions dominated by mountains and doesn’t have the proper infrastructure. Recently attack helicopters are also catching up in areas of advanced technology, connectivity, detection, attack and manoeuvrability.
A helicopter, in comparison to fighter jets, can land almost anywhere. At the same time, fighter jets require an entire operational landing base with the crew for support. An attack helicopter is also cost-effective and requires less maintenance. Still, both of them have their own pros and cons in terms of speed, range and damage power. In the two-front war threat theatre, the Indian region asks for attack helicopters in the areas like Leh and Kashmir and fighter jets for long-range, speedy missions like the Airstrike of Balakot.
These requirements have always played a role in India’s quest for attack helicopters and fighter jets. From Rafale to Apache, India has always taken regional diversities and battlefield requirements into considerations. This brings us to India’s latest attack helicopter addition - The Apache - one of the world’s most powerful, advanced and capable attack helicopter. In this Piece, we examine the Heli-killer - Apache.
THE IRON OF HELIKILLER - TECHNOLOGY, DEAL AND CAPABILITIES
The AH-64E Apache is a multi-mission attack helicopter manufactured by Boeing. It is a twin-turboshaft attack with a tailwheel type landing gear arrangement. It also has a tandem cockpit for a crew of two and has a nose-mounted target acquisition and night vision systems. It is armed to the teeth with a 30mm M230 chain gun. Apache has a helmet-mounted display (HMD) integrated with hamlet and display sighting systems. The pilot can salve it with the chain gun. This makes the gun track head movements to the area where the pilot looks. This chopper can operate day and night with night vision systems. It can operate in adverse weather conditions. Apache is equipped with Target Acquisition and Designation System, Pilot Night Vision System (TADS/PNVS), passive infrared countermeasures, GPS for connectivity and IHADSS.
Apache can control UAVs to perform scouting missions through data link and communications. Which the Indians, as of now, don't have the capabilities for. The best part of Apache is its ground attack assistance to foot soldiers in any environment. Apache can communicate and help the soldiers involved in ground-strike missions with aerial attack assistance. Apache has been designed to attack things on the ground. It can carry 16 AGM Hellfire missiles along with rocket pods and a 30mm chain gun, which can fire 625 rounds per minute. It can carry up to 1600 bullets and carry missiles like AIM-9 Sidewinder to shoot down things in the air in case it's attacked. Apache has both air-air and air-to-ground attack and engagement capabilities. Giving Apache a Hell-power edge over its counterparts in the defence world.
Apache has a lightning speed of 261 kmph and can fly 1900 km without refuelling. Apache can efficiently operate in high altitude regions near LAC and desert regions near the India-Pakistan border.
Apache has been tailored to suit India’s requirements and regional diversities of operability. The Indo-US agreement of COMCASA has given Indian military access to high-end secured and encrypted communications equipment used in American military hardware bought by India like the Apache and Chinook heavylift helicopters. This will enable Indian military to better communicate and exchange data on the battlefield.
It can fly at 9,478 feet and reach 2,415 feet in a minute. Apache has the ability to track 128 targets in less than a minute and engage with 16. Apache has stealth characteristics. With such grand capabilities, Apache can dominate dogfights that have happened in the region where India is and can project Air superiority.
Unlike China’s Z10 choppers, the Apache is combat tested and has operational experience in Afghanistan, Africa and North America, which places it above other choppers. Combat experience is an experience that has an added weight in the military world.
Apache is a costly and deadly machine but still cost-effective compared to the power and use it provides to the military. The Apache deal, along with the Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, is worth over $3 billion.
This multi-billion deal involves other equipment and weapons like missiles. The agreement has a 30 per cent offset clause, which means it will bring business to India of about $1 billion and help make in India initiative and the Indian defence industry. Boeing has established a joint venture with Tata - Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited (TBAL) for manufacturing fuselages for Apache.
This advanced manufacturing unit in Hyderabad will be soon become the world’s sole fuselages producing unit, with 90% of parts sourced from India for Apache AH-64. Giving India’s defence industry a mega push.
HELL-FIRE MESSAGE AND GEOPOLITICAL NEED
India has seen some of the greatest and most powerful additions to its arsenal in recent years. From Chinook heavy-lift Chopper for greater transportation and mission capabilities in LAC and LOC regions to Rafale, a 4.5 generation fighter jet to increase India’s modern fighting capabilities and overcome the squadron gap.
The deadly Apache for both Airforce and Army has given shine to the armour and sword of Indian defence and attack capabilities and capacity. The Delivery time of Apache and Rafale were during the 2020 India-China Galwan valley stand-off. This is a clear message for China and Pakistan that India is battle and conflict ready and armed.
Apache, like the Rafale, elevates and balances India’s power standings in comparison to the Pakistanis and brings India an inch closer to the power ratings of the Chinese. This has established a restraint mechanism in the region as the adversary powers know that any escalation will involve high military costs.
Apache fulfils India’s geopolitical power push needs in terms of operability in different areas and weather conditions from LAC, NorthEast and LOC, giving India an advantage and weight to the situation itself in the region and showcase superiority.
India’s diverse acquisitions of weapons and military hardware give it the independence to remain stuck to its interests while not bearing any delay costs. The Apache deal includes make in India approach, which gives India the ability to get valuable spare parts in times of conflicts with any delay. The geopolitics of the region require India to arm itself to the core, and India has gained a tactical and strategic edge in this geopolitical arenas by the deadly Apache’s induction. The Hellfire Apache is India’s new iron weapon.
Indian Army will receive 6 Apache helicopters in addition to the delivered 22 for the Airforce.
The Apaches can operate at high altitudes and will be deployed along the Pakistan border. The Army is likely to get the helicopters armed with Stinger air-to-air missiles and Hellfire Longbow air-to-ground missiles.
Among the Apache’s modern capabilities are the ability to shoot fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles, rockets, and other munitions.
It also has modern electronic warfare capabilities to provide versatility in network-centric aerial warfare.
The choppers are all-weather capable and have high agility and survivability against battle damage.
They can be easily maintained in field conditions and during operations in tropical and desert regions.
The geopolitics of the region require India to arm itself to the core, and India has gained a tactical and strategic edge in this geopolitical arenas by the deadly Apache’s induction. The Hellfire Apache is India’s new iron weapon.
BY HARSH SURI
CO-FOUNDER THE GEOSTRATA