Apache, Chinook choppers to debut at Republic Day fly-past
The Indian Air Force said on Monday that the fly-past on Republic Day will consist of 45 aircraft — 16 fighter jets, 10 transport planes, and 19 helicopters.
The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy-lift choppers will make their debut on January 26 at this year’s Republic Day fly-past, which is one of the most popular elements of the annual parade at New Delhi’s Rajpath.
The air force said on Monday that the fly-past will consist of 45 aircraft — 16 fighter jets, 10 transport planes, and 19 helicopters. “All aircraft will fly in from the Rashtrapati Bhawan side and exit towards the India Gate at heights between 60 metres and 300 metres above ground level,” an IAF spokesperson said.
The fighter jets taking part in the fly-past are Sukhoi-30s and upgraded MiG-29s. Other planes in the display include C-17 Globemaster III heavy lifters, C-130J Super Hercules special operations aircraft, Mi-17 V5 helicopters, Rudra advanced light helicopter (ALH) Mk IV WSI, and the army’s Dhruv ALH.
Five US-made AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and three CH-47F (I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters — the IAF’s latest acquisitions — will be the highlights of the parade this year.
In September 2015, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government placed a $3.1-billion order for 22 Apaches and 15 Chinooks to scale up the air force’s capabilities. Both helicopters are manufactured by US defence giant, Boeing.
Apart from the fly-past, the IAF participates in the Republic Day parade with a band, a marching contingent, and a tableau.
This year, the IAF tableau will have mock-ups of the Rafale fighter, the locally built Tejas light combat aircraft, a light combat helicopter, Akash surface-to-air missiles, and the Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missile.
The first batch of four Rafale fighters is expected to arrive in India from France this April-May. France formally handed over to IAF its first Rafale fighter jet at a formal induction ceremony in Merignac last October.
India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore on September 23, 2016. All 36 fighter planes will arrive by September 2022, a small step on the long road towards building a stronger air force.
The Rafale deal was an emergency purchase to arrest the worrying slide in IAF’s combat capabilities. The count of the IAF’s fighter squadrons has reduced to around 30 compared to an optimum strength of 42-plus units required to fight a two-front war with China and Pakistan.
The IAF marching contingent will consist of four officers and 144 air warriors.