Indian Air Force formally inducts heavy-lift Chinook helicopters
25 March 2019
The Indian Air Force (IAF) today formally inducted the CH 47 F (I)- Chinook heavy lift helicopters into its inventory, at a function at Air Force Station Chandigarh, where Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa was the chief guest.
IAF had signed a contract with US defence major Boeing in September 2015 for 15 Chinook helicopters. The first batch of four helicopters has been delivered on schedule and the last batch is to be delivered by March next year. These helicopters will be deployed in the Northern and Eastern regions of India, according to a defence ministry release.
The addition of heavy-lift CH 47 F (I) helicopter is a significant step towards modernisation of Indian Air Force’s helicopter fleet. The helicopter has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements and capability roadmap. The helicopter has a fully integrated digital cockpit management system, advanced cargo handling capabilities and electronic warfare suite that complement the aircraft’s performance. The helicopter is capable of airlifting diverse military and non-military loads into remote locations.
The Chinooks, manufactured by US aerospace major Boeing, will form part of the Chandigarh-based 126 Helicopter Unit, also known as the Featherweights, that has in its inventory the Soviet-origin Mi-26 heavy lift helicopters.
The IAF has received four out of the 15 helicopters. The machines, which had arrived in India by sea, were off-loaded at Mundra port in Gujarat in February and after being reassembled, flight tested and flown to Chandigarh by American crews, were formally handed over to the IAF. Part of the fleet will also be based at Dinjan in the north-east.
It is after a gap of 40 years that a US-built helicopter has donned the IAF colours.
From 1957 to 1979, fifteen American Bell 47G-2 light choppers, somewhat similar to the French-origin Cheetah that are still flown, were used.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, said: “Our country faces a multitude of security challenges and we require a vertical-airlift capability for a very diversified terrain. The Chinook will give the IAF a quantum leap to transport cargo to precarious high-altitude locations,” he said.
“We have procured the Chinook with certain India specific enhancements to increase the flexibility of the platform across the entire spectrum of heli-lift operations, including search and rescue operations and air ambulance,” Dhanoa said.
“The aircraft is all-weather capable and state-of-the-art night vision goggles will permit all operations even at night,” he added.
“Although we have been operating the medium lift Mi-17 and heavy lift Mi-26 helicopters, the Chinook, with its operating ceiling of 20,000 feet will redefine heli-lift not only in operations like inter-valley transport of troops, airlifting artillery guns and heavy under slung loads for the Border Roads Organisation, but also for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to far flung crisis hit areas,” he said.
Terming the Chinook to be a national asset, Dhanoa said the IAF’s expertise will enable it to exploit the machine’s potential in a manner that will make it a game changer in heli-lift operations.
The company had earlier supplied the C-17 heavy lift aircraft.
India had signed a deal with the US in September 2015 for 15 Chinook helicopters at a total cost of Rs 8,845 crore, with an option for another four copters.
The IAF had sent 15 pilots and 15 engineers to the US in 2018 for training on the Chinooks.
With a payload capacity of 11 tonnes or 45 troops, the Chinooks will provide a much-needed fillip to the IAF heavy-lift capability, a role earlier being fulfilled by Soviet origin Mi-26s.
The three Mi-26s with the IAF, which have double the payload capability of the Chinooks, are grounded for want of overhaul.