The focus has shifted from fighters to choppers. Not just in the Indian Air Force, which will be headed by a helicopter pilot for the first time, but also at Aero India which wraps up on Sunday.
After Air Chief-Designate Air Marshal Fali Homi Major went for a spin in the American CH-47 Chinook helicopter, Boeing IDS (Integrated Defence Systems) capped off its offerings to the armed forces with a feverish sales pitch for the multi-mission helicopter.
The IAF plans to buy 12 heavy-lift helicopters to buttress its tactical and combat support requirements, in a deal that is estimated to be upwards of $500 million. Tom Cunningham, director, International Business Development, said once the deal goes through, his company would take 24-30 months for deliveries. Sikorsky's CH-53K is also likely to compete for the IAF's helicopter tender. The IAF is yet to release the the request for proposal for the heavy-lift choppers.
During the airshow, Boeing flew several IAF pilots in the Chinook to give them a glimpse of the chopper's "versatility and maneouverability".
The Chinook, which derives its peculiar look due to the tandem rotor configuration, has become a symbol of American presence in Afghanistan and Iraq where it has been extensively involved in logistics supply and ferrying troops for the allied forces.
During major's tenure as air chief, the IAF will witness large-scale induction of helicopters. The proposed acquisitions include 197 high-altitude observation and assault helicopters, 80 Mi-171V medium lift helicopters as well as light combat helicopters.
The Chinook's were deployed extensively to expedite relief operations after disasters like the Pakistan earthquake, tsunami and hurricane Katrina.