Defence minister Manohar Parrikar will on Wednesday visit a Boeing facility in Philadelphia where the US aerospace giant manufactures its CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, which will be inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2019.
The Chinooks will fill a crucial gap in the Indian Air Force’s heavy-lift capabilities as it currently operates a solitary Soviet-origin Mi-26 chopper to deliver payloads to high altitudes.
Parrikar on Sunday left for a three-day visit to the United States during which New Delhi and Washington are likely to sign a key agreement for reciprocal logistics support, a defence ministry official said.
India and the US are likely to sign the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that will allow the two countries to provide logistics support to each other’s fighter planes, warships and personnel.
The two countries agreed “in principle” to conclude the LEMOA during US defence secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to Delhi in April.
Last September, the NDA government placed a $3.1-billion order for 22 AH-64E Apache Longbow attack helicopters – also manufactured by Boeing -- and 15 Chinooks to scale up the air force’s capabilities.
Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (retd), the first and only helicopter pilot to become IAF chief in 2007, told HT, “Given our deployments in mountains and remote areas, the heavy-lift chopper becomes ever so important for moving troops, equipment and artillery.” India’s capability has thinned with the phasing out of three Mi-26 choppers.
Parrikar would get an update on the project and see how the Indian Chinooks are being manufactured. Boeing will start delivering the tandem rotor choppers to the IAF in March 2019. The chopper can be used for secondary missions such as aircraft recovery, disaster relief, medical evacuation and search and rescue. India is the 19th country to have selected the Chinook.
Boeing had beaten off competition from Russia, which had offered its Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopter gunship and the Mi-26 heavy-lift choppers to the IAF. The US is currently the biggest supplier of weapons to India, having won orders worth over $13 billion during the last seven years.
The Chinook helicopters were introduced in 1962 and earlier variants were deployed in Vietnam.
Apart from holding talks with Carter, Parrikar’s engagements include visits to the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, Andrews Air Force base, Langley Air Force base and the US Cyber Command.
Capacity: 55 troops or 10 tonnes of freight
Service ceiling: 20,000 ft
Max speed: 302 kmph
Length: 30.14 m (with rotors operating)
Height: 5.68 m