In a major breakthrough for the Indian armed forces, the deal for the much famed Chinook helicopters has been finalized and the delivery of the same shall start in February. American defense bigwig Boeing, who specializes in these helicopters, has agreed to begin the delivery of the CH-47 helicopters, which are also known as Chinook, by February 2019.
To quote an IAF officer, who was a part of the finalizing of the deal, ‘The helicopters would be shipped to India in a partially disassembled state and would be off-loaded at Okhla port in Gujarat. The Americans are setting up facilities near Okhla to re-assemble and test-fly the helicopters before being handed over to the IAF.’
After the acceptance trials, the helicopters shall be flown to Chandigarh, which would serve as their permanent base, which would be also equipped with the following :
- Two Hangars for the Helicopters
- A Maintenance Bay
- Technical and Logistics Facilities for the Helicopters
Chinook helicopters have a payload capacity of a whopping 10 tonnes and would assist the Indian Air Force in their heavy lifting capabilities. Initially, this job was done by the Soviet origin MI 26, of which India had four such helicopters, but only one is fit for service as of now.
Keeping this deficiency in mind, the Indian government had signed a deal with the USA in 2015 for delivery of 15 Chinook helicopters, with an option of another four available on demand, apart from 22 AH 64 Apache attack helicopters that would be based elsewhere.
This is a major victory for both the Indian armed forces and the Indian government, currently led by PM Narendra Modi and able Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in their respective capacities. The deal has been completed in a record time of 3.5 years; contrary to the dilly-dallying that was a norm in UPA [Congress] government, scams like Augusta Westland and Bofors notwithstanding.
To quote an IAF officer, ‘The fact that the new machines are arriving by sea indicates that the entire fleet would be delivered in one or two consignments…..The other option was to have the choppers airlifted in heavy freighters like the AN-124, which would have taken multiple sorties spread over days or weeks.’
Interestingly, the work on receiving the deliveries has already begun, the first Chinook airframe manufactured for the IAF made its inaugural flight in the US in July this year. Just last month, a team of IAF personnel comprising four pilots and four engineers also proceeded to Delaware in the US for conversion training on Chinooks.
Chinooks, which are famous for its impressive payload capacity, will make a lot of jobs easier for both the Indian Air Force. It will not only lift crucial equipment like artillery, vehicles, engineering equipment but will also lift troops in case of covert operations like the historical surgical strikes of 2016, as well as facilitate supplies to mountainous sectors in North and North-East.
For this, we have two organizations to thank for, the Indian Air Force, and the Central Government under PM Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who never gave up on their efforts to equip our armed forces with the latest and the best equipment available.