The Indian Air Force on Friday formally received its first Apache Guardian attack helicopter at a Boeing production facility in the United States. The chopper was handed over to Air Marshal AS Butola, representing the IAF, in a ceremony at the facility in Arizona.

India had signed a multi-billion dollar deal with the US government and Boeing for 22 attack choppers in September 2015, PTI reported. The first batch of these helicopters will be shipped to India by July. “Selected aircrew and ground crew have undergone training at the training facilities at US Army base Fort Rucker, Alabama,” the IAF said in a statement. “These personnel will lead the operationalisation of the Apache fleet in the IAF.”

The latest addition was hailed as a major step towards modernisation of the IAF’s fleet. “The helicopter has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain,” the air force added in its statement. “The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground. The ability of these helicopters, to transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems through data networking makes it a lethal acquisition.”

The attack helicopters are expected to provide a “significant edge” in future joint operations with land forces, the IAF added.

The AH-64E Apache is flown by the United States Army and is considered to be one of the top multi-role attack helicopters in the world. In 2017, the Defence Ministry had sanctioned the procurement of six Apache helicopters along with weapons systems worth Rs 4,168 crore from Boeing for the Indian Army, PTI reported.