On Indian Air Force's 87th anniversary, we take a look at its best helicopters that have served the country like an unsung hero for ages:Boeing Apache AH-64E: The AH-64 E is known for its greater thrust and lift, joint digital operability, improved survivability, and cognitive decision aiding and is uniquely suited to meet the commander’s needs, including reconnaissance, security, peacekeeping operations, and lethal attack—in both land and littoral environments—all without reconfiguration. (Image: IAF)
HAL Dhruv ALH: The Dhruv ALH is a helicopter developed and manufactured by the HAL and entered service in 2002. The indigenous ALH fleet in IAF has steadily grown from conventional ALH Mk-I to state of the art 'Glass' cockpit ALH Mk-III. This helicopter is a twin-engine machine that can carry 14 passengers with two pilots and has a cruise speed of 250 km/hr. It is also used by the Sarang Helicopter Display Team, apart from SAR, Cas Evac, and RTR operations. There's also an attack variant of the HAL Dhruv called HAL Rudra. (Image: AP)
HAL Cheetah: The Cheetah is a essentially the Aerospatiale SA 315B Lama French single-engined helicopter made by HAL in India and was developed to meet high altitude operational requirements of the Indian Armed Forces. The Cheetah helicopter fleet has been the backbone in SAR, Casualty Evacuation and RTR (Route Transport Role) role in the IAF. The Cheetah has a capacity to carry 3 passengers or 100 kg external sling loads. It has a max cruise speed of 121 km/hr and can climb to 1 km in 4 minutes.
HAL Chetak: The Aerospatiale Alouette III is a single-engine, light utility helicopter manufactured in India under license by HAL and is developed by French aircraft company Sud-Aviation. While the HAL Chetak is being gradually replaced by HAL Dhruv, the heli has been used for training, transport, CASEVAC (casualty evacuation), communications and liaison roles. The helicopter can carry 6 passengers or 500 kg load. It has a max speed of 220 km/hr. (Image: Indian Navy)
Mil MI-26: Undoubtedly the pride of the Indian Air Force and also the biggest of the lot, the Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopter has been used for operations in the mountains of Northern India. The Russian origin Mil-made Twin engine turboshaft is a military heavy-lift helicopter with a carrying capacity of 70 combat troops or 20,000 kg payload. It has a max speed of 295 km/hr.
Mil MI-25/MI-35: The attack helicopters that used to guard India before the arrival of US-made Apache were the Mil MI-25 and MI-35, Twin engine turboshaft, assault, and anti-armour helicopters that are capable of carrying 8 men assault squad. The Mi-35 was inducted in April 1990. The attack helis have four-barrel 12.7 mm rotary gun in nose barbette and up to 1500 Kg of external ordnance including Scorpion anti-tank missiles. It has a max cruise speed of 310 km/hr.
Mil MI-17 V5: The Mi-17 V5 is a twin-turbine transport helicopter used by the IAF to transport the Prime Minister of India domestically. It is also used for other transport activities and is an advanced and trusted platform equipped with modern avionics and glass cockpit instrumentation and has state-of-art navigational equipment, weather radar and is NVG-compatible. (Image: IAF)
Boeing Chinook: The CH-47 Chinook is an advanced multi-mission helicopter that provides strategic airlift capability across the full spectrum of combat and humanitarian missions. It contains a fully integrated, digital cockpit management system, Common Aviation Architecture and advanced cargo-handling capabilities that enhance the aircraft's mission performance and handling characteristics. It is used by the US Army, US Army Reserve, National Guard and by the armed forces of more than 19 countries.. (Image: Boeing)