Bengaluru: The first four CH-47F (I) Chinooks for the Indian Air Force (IAF) have arrived at the Mundra Port in Gujarat on Sunday.
Its makers Boeing said the CH-47F (I) Chinooks will be now ferried to Chandigarh, where it will be formally inducted in the IAF later this year.
Boeing says the Chinooks have been delivered ahead of schedule, and its commitment to help modernise India’s defence forces intact.
Air Force Station Chandigarh will be the base for the IAF Chinooks and these heavy lift choppers will be now part of the No 126 Helicopter Flight also known as the Featherweights. The squadron currently operates the last of four Russian Mil Mi-26s.
The IAF has placed a total order of 15 Chinook helicopters with the Boeing.
The CH-47F (I) Chinook is an advanced multi-mission helicopter that will provide the Indian armed forces with unmatched strategic airlift capability across the full spectrum of combat and humanitarian missions.
“Through its current partnerships with the IAF and Indian Navy, Boeing has ensured high rate of mission readiness and increased operational capabilities,” says a Boeing statement.
The handing over ceremony of the first Chinook was held at Philadelphia in the US early this month. The current deliveries are expected to be completed by 2023.
India had signed a government-to-government deal with the US in September, 2015, for 15 Chinooks, with an additional option of seven more platforms.
Boost to inter-valley ops
Veteran aviator Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd) tells Onmanorama that the arrival of Chinooks will be a huge boost for the IAF’s operations.
“Till now, we were depending on the Mi-26s in for all our heavy-lift requirements. The numbers are very few and also the serviceability of these Russian platforms has been relatively very low,” Air Marshal Chopra (Retd) said.
According to him, the Chinooks have great operational experience of many decades.
“Chinooks coming in larger numbers is a good sign for IAF and what we are getting is the latest version. It will be a big capability boost for IAF to carry loads in Ladak and Kashmir regions. The efficiency will now increase by many folds and it will be a great leap for inner-valley transfer of equipment during peace time and in operation,” he said.
He further added that the north-east regions too will be a great beneficiary with Chinooks coming in.
“We all know about the poor road connectivity in N-E regions and the efforts are now on to better it. However, Chinooks will play a major role in this regional as well as more numbers come in,” he said.
With its multirole capabilities Chinooks are expected to play a life-saving role during HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) missions, for which the IAF fleets are often pressed into services.
“With India facing many natural calamities, a helicopter with such heavy-lift roles will increase the probabilities at which we can approach a disaster. There will be a huge shift in the HADR planning with the Chinooks landing in India,” says an IAF official.