Amid the ongoing tensions between neighbours India and Pakistan, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa inducted four heavy-lift Boeing CH47 Chinook helicopters into the Indian Air Force in Chandigarh on Monday, March 25. The IAF received the Chinook helicopters through a government-to-government deal signed between the United States and India in September 2015.
The four helicopters are a part of the 15 Chinook deal, valued at about $1.5 billion. The rest of the helicopters are expected to be delivered by 2023. The four Chinooks were delivered to India in a semi-knocked down state at the Mudra Port in Gujarat in February 2019, after which the helicopters were reassembled, tested, and then sent to the IAF base in Chandigarh.
Before their arrival in India, the US tested the helicopters in July 2018, and also trained IAF pilots and engineers on the operation of the same. Meanwhile, India worked in building the infrastructure for the Chinook helicopters, including two hangars, a maintenance facility, as well as, logistics and technical facilities, reported Livemint.
What is the Chinook?
The Chinook helicopter is a twin-rotor chopper, which took off for its first flight in 1962. The helicopter is used by the Armed Forces in 19 countries and has been a part of several army operations such as the Vietnam War, the Libyan Wars, the Falklands War, and the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars along with carrying out several disaster operations.
The Chinook played a vital role during the Gulf War and remains an important part of the US' role in counter-terrorism activities.
The Chinook is one of the two helicopters other than the Apache attack choppers that India signed deals for. The Apaches are also expected to start arriving at the Pathankot airbase.
Chinook's importance and capabilities
The Chinook, with a maximum payload capacity of about 11 tonnes and an underslung load of about 10 tonnes, is a heavy-lift transport helicopter that will help move troops, artillery, ammunition, equipment, light armoured vehicles, and other supplies to the battlefield.
The chopper, which gets its name from the Native American Chinook people of modern-day Washington state, is said to be highly manoeuvrable, making it extremely efficient in difficult terrain and narrow mountain valleys. The chopper also boasts of an all-weather capability
"The Chinooks are a huge capability enhancement for the forces since they can carry not just troops but also artillery guns and even light armoured vehicles to high altitudes, which makes a lot of difference to the capability along the northern borders," an IAF official told ThePrint.
"Given the design of the Chinook, it is well suited for operations in the mountains as it is highly manoeuvrable, which comes handy when one has to fly through narrow valleys," the official added.
Chinook's deployment in India
At a time with tensions between India and Pakistan refuse to die down, the Chinook helicopters will be deployed in Indian regions that are along the Pakistan border. After the IAF carried out a strike in Pakistan's Balakot, demolishing several terror camps in the area and killing scores of terrorists, Pakistan is known to have mobilised some of its units close to the border.
Heavy shelling and cross border firing too has been reported from the border and India too has carried out counter-mobilisation in the region.
Apart from this, the Chinook will probably also be used by the IAF in when humanitarian assistance is required and disaster relief operations.