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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is undergoing a significant shift in its helicopter procurement strategy, prioritizing domestic production and affordability over additional imports. This comes after the IAF confirmed it will not acquire more Apache attack helicopters, opting instead for the locally-made LCH Prachand. Now, the focus is turning to heavy-lift helicopters, with the IAF reportedly dropping plans for further purchases of the iconic Boeing CH-47F(I) Chinook.

The decision to forego additional Chinooks, despite their impressive capabilities, stems from a desire to support indigenous development and optimize costs. The IAF had previously acquired 15 Chinooks in 2020, but their high operating costs and potential dependence on foreign suppliers for maintenance have led to a reevaluation.

Instead, the IAF is placing its bets on the HAL-proposed Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH), a smaller and more affordable option envisioned for a range of tasks, including troop and cargo transport, combat search and rescue, and disaster relief. While IMRH offers a lower maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) compared to the Chinook, its lower acquisition and operational costs make it a more attractive proposition for the IAF’s long-term needs.

Furthermore, the IAF recently revived its fleet of Russian-supplied Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters, which had been grounded for over five years. These venerable giants, with their even greater MTOW capacity, will undergo overhauls in Russia and return to service in 2024, providing the IAF with a temporary solution for heavy-lift requirements while IMRH development progresses.

This shift in strategy reflects the IAF’s growing emphasis on indigenization and cost-effectiveness. By prioritizing projects like LCH Prachand and IMRH, the IAF aims to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers, enhance operational flexibility, and achieve long-term sustainability. While the decision to forego additional Chinooks may raise questions about its long-term heavy-lift capabilities, the IAF’s commitment to domestic programs and cost-consciousness appears to be the driving force behind this strategic shift.

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