The induction of eight US-made Apache advanced attack helicopters at the Pathankot forward airbase gives a boost to India's defence of its Kashmir cause. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will eventually have 22 of these deadly machines built by Boeing, reports say. Nicknamed 'Flying Tank' for its tough armoury, stability and reliability, the Apache attack helicopter is equipped with all-weather night vision capabilities and is especially adapted for the treacherous mountains of Kashmir.
The helicopters that have done wonders to the morale of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, Apache helicopters will be equipped with precision munition including cannons and fire-and-forget Hellfire missiles. The stationing of these mighty workhorses in Punjab's Pathankot is significant in that they can be deployed quickly in areas of tension like the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh.
The arrival of these advanced attack helicopters will decisively tilt the balance of forces any theatre of war in India's favour as they are equipped with munitions that can pierce armour and destroy even tanks, apart from precision targeting terrorist hideouts in the most inaccessible of mountains.
Earlier, the first flight of a fully-loaded Apache helicopter took place at the Hindon airbase witnessed by Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa. The fact that Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 of these versatile helicopters of users around the world testify to their capabilities, reports say.
IAF tweeted a video of the arrival of the second batch of four helicopters at Hindon airbase and the first flight of the helicopter.
The choppers can also be deployed in a reconnaissance role as their nose-mounted cameras can send battlefield pictures to Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (Awacs) units. Their all-weather capabilities and night vision enhancements make them deadly for terrorists who operate under cover of darkness and in thickly forested areas.
These aircraft are said to be especially suited for deep-penetration stealth strikes in enemy territory with their radar-evading, terrain-hugging capabilities. The attack helicopters will be a major shot in the arm for the Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) that are being stationed in Punjab and Rajasthan to strike deep and quick at enemy targets.
The stationing of such fast attack formations in the forward bases will also send the message that incursions on Indian territory will elicit a strong response causing disproportionate pain.
The Indian defence forces are in the midst of a massive modernisation programme that will make them one of the best fighting forces of the world. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to make the forces among the smartest with the heavy induction of technology and network-centric operations.