November 11, 2001
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US to give Apache attack helicopters to Pakistan

Muhammad Najeeb in Islamabad

The Pakistan army is all set to receive a batch of six Apache attack helicopters from the US early next month, after nearly a decade-long arms embargo, reports said.

The six AH-64D Long Bow Apaches will be part of the $73 million American assistance to Pakistan announced last week to strengthen its western borders with Afghanistan.

Although it is not possible to confirm the version of these choppers, it is believed they will be either AH-64 or AH-64D, a report in Al-Akhbar daily said.

The US on November 7 announced it would provide Pakistan with $73 million in emergency funds to safeguard the security of its borders, particularly with Afghanistan.

Assistance will include helicopters and planes, land vehicles, communications gear, night vision goggles and also direly needed training.

The batch of six Apaches comes after President Pervez Musharraf promised the US authorities he would launch a crackdown on cross-border movement along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border but required help in terms of military hardware including helicopters, spare parts for Pakistan's fleet of F-16s and other equipment.

Musharraf and his team during talks with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had demanded greater military assistance from Washington for security of its borders and vital nuclear installations.

Pakistan's nuclear assets are guarded by air capping done by F-16s but due to non-availability of spares Pakistan had to cut down flying hours of its F-16s.

Another report in a Pakistani daily said the country would soon receive the first shipment of spares for its depleting fleet of F-16s.

Islamabad believes international concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear assets can only be put at rest if the country is provided with state-of-the-art ground and air equipment for the security of nuclear installations.

Unrest by religious organisations which oppose Pakistan's decision to support the US-led strikes in Afghanistan have sparked off fears of a threat to the Musharraf regime, and consequently of nuclear installations falling into the wrong hands.

"The batch of six Apache helicopters will give lethal teeth to the Pakistan Army, which has not inducted any top of the line system into its inventory for more than 10 years now," said a defence analyst.

It recently inducted Ukrainian tanks and some very insignificant defence systems.

The AH-64 attack helicopter's four wings hard-points can carry 16 Hellfire missiles or 76 rockets (or a mix of these weapons) and the under fuselage turret is designed to collapse harmlessly upwards in crash landing.

It also houses a 30mm chain gun with 12,000 rounds of ammunition. The entire structure is designed to withstand hits of any type of ammunition up to 23mm calibre.

The AH-64 chain gun can disable a tank from 1.5 km and the Hellfire missiles have a range of 6 km. Apache's new version AH-64D can use radar-guided Hellfires, which can be used in a 'fire and forget' fashion.

Greece, the US and the United Arab Emirates are using Apaches AH-64 at present.

Indo-Asian News Service

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