NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force (IAF) will today induct the first four heavy-lift Chinook helicopters capable of transporting howitzers and troops to forward and high-altitude areas across the country, adding more teeth to IAF's heavy lift capabilities as well as place India-US defence cooperation on a stronger footing.
The first of the iconic machines – with its unmistakable twin rotors – will become part of the 126 Helicopter Flight squadron at an official ceremony in Chandigarh, two officials said. The 126 Helicopter Flight unit currently operates the last of the Russian built Mi-26 choppers that have been transporting heavy equipment so far.
The government-to-government deal was inked by India and the US in September 2015 for 15 Chinooks and with an option of buying seven additional platforms. The Chinook is considered one of the most modern heavy lift choppers in the world and can carry goods and cargo of upto 9.6 tonnes. This includes men and machines -- like heavy machinery, artillery guns and even light armoured vehicles -- to high altitudes. The Chinook is suited for mountain operations given its high maneuverability of negotiating narrow valleys, as witnessed in Afghanistan. Since its introduction in the 1960s, 1,179 Chinooks have been built, Boeing India said in a statement last month.
The first Chinooks arrived in India from the US in a semi-knocked down condition last month and were reassembled and re-tested before being sent to their Chandigarh base, one of the officials cited above said. US aerospace giant Boeing had handed over the machines at a ceremony in Philadelphia last month to the officers of the IAF in the presence of the Indian Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla. The first Chinook airframe manufactured for the IAF was tested in the US in July 2018 and it was followed by training of the pilots and engineers. The infrastructure for the helicopters has already been set up which includes two hangars and a maintenance facility besides logistics and technical facilities. The complete delivery of 15 Chinooks are expected to be completed by 2023.
The CH-47F (I) Chinooks are expected to be used by the IAF in missions in Ladakh area, Kashmir and north-east regions. Besides ferrying combat ready personnel and defence equipment, the Chinooks are also expected to give a significant boost to infrastructure development along India’s borders given that the helicopter has the capacity to negotiate difficult terrain while ferrying heavy cargo like road construction equipment. The Chinook is also expected to be used by the IAF in life-saving roles during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or HADR missions, for which the IAF is often called in.