Apache has a capability to blunt any armoured thrust and can play a crucial role in the manoeuvre warfare. It is a game-changer in a modern Tactical Battle Area.
The Apache AH64 (I) aircraft upgraded/modified to suit IAF specific requirements is slated to replace the Russian made MI25/35 gunships thus far used for the purpose. According to IAF aviators with induction of Apache IAF has added a capability that has a huge deterrence value in peacetime and can wreak havoc on the enemy thus blunting its thrust. In Indian context, it can be used in a variety of roles in deserts, jungles and over mountain terrain in different configurations. The employment philosophy of such a versatile platform will have the planner’s hands full for quite some time from now.
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Air vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), Addl Director General, Centre for Air Power Studies, says “The Apache is more than just an attack helicopter – it is a system. Besides the potent armament it carries – hellfire anti tank missiles, Air to air missiles, rockets and the chin mounted gun – it can share its radar picture through the IAF ‘s Integrated Air Command and Control System with other combat assets. With its night vision and night targeting systems, the enemy’s armour will find it difficult to hide in darkness.”
Sharing his views Group Capt Sundeep Mehta (retd) says, “Apache Guardian attack helicopter that the Indian air force has acquired is a strategic, potent and a proven weapon platform. With its array of sensors providing pilots a unique Target acquisition and designation capability in all weather, by day and night, tracking multiple targets simultaneously together with lethal combination of armament including 30 mm cannon with its off bore sighting capability, rockets and missiles – both anti-tank and even Air to Air, that can be carried on the hard points on its external stub wings. Together with its fire-control radar and data link capability bring to unsurpassed lethality and accuracy in destroying its targets makes Apache the most formidable weapon platform in a modern battlefield.”
According to Mehta, who is a former IAF helicopter pilot and a defence analyst, powered by powerful twin turbo shaft engines with high mounted exhaust to reduce its IR signature, it can operate to great heights nearly 20000 feet and at high speeds. It has some of the best crash survivability features that include a tail wheel. Even the crew compartments of the tandem seat cockpit are shielded to ensure improved crew and mission survivability.
It was the Apaches of the earlier generation that led the attacks to destroy Iraqi radar in the opening fire if the first gulf war -Operation Enduring Freedom. Apache has a capability to blunt any armoured thrust and can play a crucial role in the manoeuvre warfare. It is a game-changer in a modern Tactical Battle Area.
Specifically, Apache guardian can control UAVs over the TBA, use their imagery from a higher altitude to get enemy disposition and execute attacks while remaining low undetected with stealth. Apache has been used in Air to Air role in bringing down UAV and is capable of handling slow-moving threats and even taking-on a fighter in certain conditions.
A strategic weapon platform, Apache is well suited for BAS (battlefield Air Support missions) role. It can operate from forward locations – off base and its high loiter time making it a formidable defence against any enemy thrust.
Wing Commander Abhishek Matiman (Retd): The Apache AH64(I) is the most advanced, highly versatile battle tested and proven rotary wing aircraft can be employed in multifarious roles encompassing – armed reconnaissance, battlefield air interdiction, close combat, mobile strike, and vertical maneuver missions when required, by day and night even in an obscured battlefield, and adverse weather conditions.”
“Although info on the India specific enhancements isn’t available for dissemination, the AH-64 Apache in general, is a twin-engine multi-mission attack helicopter that presents a highly stable aerial weapons delivery platform. Equipped with guns, rockets and point target weapons system (Hellfire missiles), it is capable of wreaking havoc in enemy ground forces, particularly armoured formations that spearhead the thrust of any ground offensive.”
A veteran IAF aviator and former spokesperson for the MoD, Matiman explains that the onboard Fire Control Radar (FCR), Radar Frequency Interferometer (RFI), and a modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight (M-TADS) is slated to give the IAF’s helicopter fleet the long awaited and much needed big leap in combat effectiveness. With the IAF’s transition to net-centric warfare the Apache is poised to provide a timely shot in the arm for IAF’s helicopter combat pilots by providing them a greatly enhanced situational awareness of the battlefield, unparalleled flight performance and the most important ability of joint interoperability in the ever evolving battle scenarios.
The Apache would also lend teeth that were sorely missed by the IAF during Op Vijay wherein Fighter aircraft (Mirage-2000s) with laser guided munition had to be deployed to dislodge enemy troops entrenched at high altitudes, he opines.
With Chinook deliveries too underway, a realisation of the combined potential of the two is sure to send shivers down the spine of adversaries. Any probable surgical strikes in the future, if need be – are sure to be exponentially higher in lethality and effect. While the Apache meets all requirements for IAF and the Indian Army too, it also fulfills interoperability goals for the future and will add significant combat capability. The aircraft would also help address obsolescence issues, ensuring the aircraft remains a viable force multiplier for at least a few decades hence, Matiman adds.