IAF gets four Chinook heavy-lift helicopters

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IAF gets four Chinook heavy-lift helicoptersNEW DELHI: In a shot in the arm for the Indian Air Force, the first four of the 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters arrived in India from the US on Sunday.

The first four CH-47F Chinooks for the IAF were brought to the Mundra Port in Gujarat. They will be assembled in Gujarat before being ferried to Chandigarh, where they will be formally inducted into the IAF later this year. At Chandigarh, the helicopters will become a part of the 126 Helicopter Flight, which currently operates the last of the Mi-26 heavy lift helicopters.

The helicopters have come before their scheduled arrival in March. “The ahead-of-schedule arrival of the Chinooks validates Boeing’s commitment to delivering on its promise of modernizing India’s defense forces. Through its current partnerships with Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, Boeing has ensured high rate of mission readiness and increased operational capabilities,” Boeing said.

In 2015, India had cleared the purchase of 22 Apaches and 15 Chinook helicopters for the IAF in a deal worth $2.5 billion from the US. The defence ministry had also finalised its order with Boeing for the production, training and support of the helicopters. IAF crews had begun their training on the Chinooks at Delaware in the US last year. Earlier this month, the first Chinook helicopter was handed over to the IAF in Philadelphia.

The CH-47F Chinook is said to be an advanced multi-mission helicopter operated by the US Army and 18 other defence forces. Boeing added that the Chinook “will provide the Indian armed forces with unmatched strategic airlift capability across the full spectrum of combat and humanitarian missions.”

The Chinook, which is a battle proven machine, can carry 9.6 tons of load, including artillery guns, light armoured vehicles and heavy machinery to high altitude areas. It is well suited for mountainous operations, due to its high maneuverability and ability to easily move in and out of valleys.

For India, the helicopters would add to the existing capabilities of the IAF. They will be of immense importance when needed to quickly ferry the M777 Ultra Light Howitzers to mountainous regions. India is procuring 145 M777s for the army for deployment along the borders opposite China and Pakistan. The helicopters could also come in use of the construction agencies in the North East to lift heavy equipment for strategic roads construction.