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IAF Grounds Entire Fleet Of US-Origin AH-64 Apache Helos; Comes After ‘Super Chopper’s’ Troubled Past

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has decided to temporarily halt the operations of its Apache helicopter fleet due to the discovery of a technical problem during routine maintenance on May 31.

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IAF Chief Tomer Bar has said that the Israeli Air Force’s Apache helicopter fleet, referred to as Seraph within the country, will be kept out of service until each chopper undergoes a thorough inspection.

The Israeli Air Force has not disclosed specific details regarding the technical issue discovered during routine maintenance.

During the Independence Day flyby earlier this year, an IDF Apache helicopter encountered a technical fault, prompting it to perform an unscheduled landing in central Israel. At the time, the military said it was not an emergency landing.

In 2017, a training mission involving an Apache attack helicopter ended tragically when it crashed at a base in southern Israel, resulting in the pilot’s death and critical injuries to a crew member.

Indian Incident

Earlier, on May 29, an Apache attack helicopter belonging to the Indian Air Force (IAF) made a precautionary landing in a village in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, India.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) confirmed the incident, highlighting that the crew and the aircraft emerged unharmed from the landing. 

The exact reason behind the emergency landing is still under investigation. However, sources indicate that a technical issue may have prompted the decision to execute the precautionary landing.

Indian Air Force tweeted, “An Apache AH-64 helicopter of the IAF carried out a precautionary landing near Bhind during routine operational training. All crew and the aircraft are safe.”

The Air Force swiftly sent a rectification team to the site to address any required repairs or maintenance. The service confirmed that the issue with the Apache helicopter was successfully resolved on-site, allowing it to be flown back to the base.

The viral video circulating on the internet captured a scene where numerous villagers gathered around the site, extending assistance and seizing the opportunity to witness the attack helicopter up close. 

In a previous incident in 2020, an IAF Apache helicopter made a similar landing in a field approximately one hour after departing from its base in Pathankot, Punjab. 

At the time, the service, in a statement, said that during the helicopter’s flight, indications of a critical failure emerged, prompting the pilot to execute a safe landing in the western region of Indora, Punjab. 

The latest incident involving Apache attack aircraft comes just days after the IAF temporarily grounded around 50 MiG-21 fighter aircraft following a crash in Hanumangarh district, Rajasthan.

Boeing AH-64 Apache - Wikipedia
Boeing AH-64 Apache – Wikipedia

For a significant period, the MiG-21s served as the backbone of the IAF, playing a vital role in enhancing its overall combat capabilities. Following their initial induction, the IAF acquired over 870 MiG-21 fighters to bolster its air power.

Reports reveal that over the last six decades, MiG-21s were involved in approximately 400 crashes, highlighting the challenges faced by these aircraft.

In contrast, the induction of the Apache attack helicopters represents a significant effort by the Indian Air Force to embrace modernization and acquire combat-proven battle equipment.  

Apache Attack Chopper

The Apache AH-64E helicopter, widely utilized by the United States military and increasingly sought after by international customers, was also chosen by India. Seventeen countries worldwide use this attack chopper.

The initial batch of Apache AH-64E, a dedicated attack helicopter, was officially incorporated into the Indian Air Force (IAF) in September 2019. This development followed a procurement agreement signed by the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration in 2015. 

Currently, the Indian Air Force (IAF) operates a fleet of 22 AH-64E Apache helicopters, further bolstering its aerial capabilities. 

In 2020, the Indian government ordered additional six Apache helicopters, demonstrating their confidence in the platform and their commitment to further enhancing their operational fleet.

With their AN/APG-78 Longbow fire control radar system, the renowned Apache helicopters have earned a formidable reputation for effectively approaching targets, executing highly accurate precision attacks from a safe distance, and operating even in hostile airspace where ground threats may be present.

File: AH-64D Apache Longbow

Several successful missions across the world have demonstrated the Apache’s combat performance. Apache helicopters were extensively deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, conducting numerous combat missions. 

From providing close air support during counter-insurgency operations to striking armored targets with lethal accuracy, the Apache has frequently demonstrated its capacity to neutralize threats and defend friendly personnel. 

India’s current fleet of Russian Mi-35 helicopters, classified as “assault” choppers, is nearing retirement. While the Mi-35s have served their purpose, they are not purely designated as attack helicopters. 

The Mi-35s are also designed to transport soldiers into strongly fortified areas. The Apache, conversely, is purely an attack helicopter with air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities.

The Apaches are equipped with a 30mm gun beneath the nose that has a 1,200-round-per-minute rate of fire.

In addition to Hellfire missiles, the Apache is armed with 70mm guided or unguided rockets, capable of carrying 80 at once.

The induction of the Apache AH-64E helicopters provides India with a dedicated and advanced attack helicopter platform. 

According to Boeing’s website, Australia, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States are Apache customers.

Challenging The Apache’s Resilience: The Battle of Karbala

During the early stages of the Global War on Terror, the United States and its allies faced a challenging situation as they hastily launched invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Iraqi military put up strong resistance against the US forces.

Among the many battles that took place during that time, one of the most brutal encounters involved the AH-64 Apache attack on Karbala.

The objective of the Karbala raid was to severely weaken the Messina Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The mission was assigned to 31 Apaches from the 3rd Infantry Division of the US Army.

But, the mission posed a formidable challenge as the US forces had to navigate at low altitudes through a densely populated urban area teeming with both regular Iraqi forces and resistance fighters.

With full awareness of the perilous circumstances, the Apache pilots embarked on their mission on the morning of March 24, 2003, knowing they were entering an extremely dangerous area.

The situation proved perilous, as a majority of the Apaches participating in the raid endured significant damage, predominantly inflicted by small-arms fire.

In that mission involving 31 helicopters, one Apache crashed shortly after takeoff, another Apache, designated as “Vampire 12,” was shot down, and a total of 29 Apaches were damaged.

Analysis after the battle affirmed that the Karbala raid had been carefully orchestrated by Iraqi ground forces, who devised a plan to ambush the American helicopters.

The Iraqis strategically deployed multiple teams armed with rifles, machine guns, and RPGs to effectively neutralize the US helicopters.

However, despite their thorough preparations and familiarity with the terrain, the Iraqi forces were largely unsuccessful in their efforts when faced with the formidable Apache helicopters.

Although the mission did not achieve success in inflicting damage on the enemy forces, the battle showcased the mettle of the Apache attack helicopters.

Despite sustaining significant damage during the ambush, the majority of the Apaches demonstrated their capabilities by retaliating and returning to base.

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