The Army’s long-pending demand for the requirement of the state-of-art American Apache AH-64E Guardian attack helicopters for its Strike Corps for operations across the western borders is finally likely to see the light of day.
The $930 Million contracts for six Apache AH 64E Guardian helicopters was signed during the visit of the American President Donald Trump last month. In addition to the Apache helicopters, the deal also includes weapons, radars and electronic warfare suites which constitute the most important components of an attack helicopter.
The Apache is today arguably the most advanced, potent and battle-hardened attack helicopters in the world with its latest Guardian model boasting of more powerful engines boosting range and loiters time, new drone control and anti-ship capabilities and AI-backed pilot assistance.
It’s a very significant development for the Army for it will change the very concept of fighting mechanised warfare in the Indian context and provide the quantum jump in the combat potential of the Strike Corps and a major boost to its tactical fighting capabilities.
The army had initially projected its requirement for 39 Apache helicopters to cater for three squadrons for the three Strike Corps, but the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) initially approved eleven and subsequently in August 2018 further curtailed the numbers down to six Apache Attack Helicopters (AH) only, probably due to financial constraints.
While a unit of six Apaches is not an ideal combat organisation from the tactical employment point of view, a beginning has been made and Army no doubt will subsequently pursue its case for greater numbers, based on its operational requirements. This case for six Apaches was processed as a ‘follow on contract’ of the earlier deal inked for 22 Apaches for the Air Force, eight of which have already been inducted. The induction of Apaches for the army is likely to commence in 2022 after the induction of 22 Apaches is completed.
Apache Key Characteristics
Before dwelling on its employment philosophy, especially in the Indian context, it’s important to look at some key characteristics of Apache Guardian which impact warfighting and make it a true force multiplier and battle winner.
The Apache 64E AH also known as ‘Apache Guardian’ is the most technologically advanced and lethal AH in the world today. It is basically the upgraded version of the Apache 64D-Block III, which even today continues to be the mainstay of US Military AH fleet.
The Apache Guardian incorporates 28 technology upgrades, the major ones being more powerful engines, upgraded transmission system to accommodate additional power, improved digital connectivity, capability to control UAVs, advanced sensors and avionics permitting unhindered night operations, improved landing gear and new composite blades. These important upgrades have led to increased speeds, climb rates and greater payload carriage capacity in the Guardian – this variant is also fit for maritime operations.
The Apache Guardian has a lethal array of armaments which includes Hellfire anti-tank guided missiles and Stinger air to air missiles along with the capability to fire 70mm unguided rockets (Hydra) and 1200 rounds of ammunition from a 30mm cannon.
A unique feature is the advanced Target Acquisition and Designation Sight and the Dome installed over the main rotor housing – the Longbow Fire Control Radar.