After Dantewada fiasco, IAF takes steps for choppers` safety

The IAF faced flak after its personnel abandoned an injured policeman in a chopper crippled in Naxal firing.

Updated: Apr 07, 2013, 14:08 PM IST

Raipur (Chhattisgarh): The IAF, which faced flak after its personnel abandoned an injured policeman in a chopper crippled in Naxal firing, has now begun flying double sorties to many areas and more commandos for its air support missions in anti-Naxal operations to prevent such incidents.

The sortie routes of the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters are being sanitised by UAVs in advance and it has doubled the strength of on-board `Garuda` commandos to four every time its Mi-17 choppers fly in remote and forested areas of Naxal violence affected states, official sources said.

A senior official in the anti-Naxal operations grid noted that the helicopters are under an "increased threat" from extremists.

The new operational procedures are being undertaken after the January 18 incident in Chhattisgarh`s Dantedwada where Maoist gunfire had forced an IAF Mi-17 helicopter to make emergency landing and the conduct of the on-board IAF men in abandoning the armed chopper, weapons and an injured state police wireless operator is being probed.

A Court of Inquiry is already underway to ascertain the role of the IAF men involved in this operation.

The sortie routes of the IAF helicopters are now being sanitised by UAVs in advance and in many cases two helicopters fly the same path, with one flying alongside the other in a secure formation, the sources said.

While two commandos man the LMG mounted on-board the chopper, two others armed with sophisticated rifles secure the machine after landing.

"The anti-Naxal operations are a dynamic state of affairs. There are regular intelligence inputs suggesting Naxal tactics and the helicopter sorties are surely under an increased threat," the official said.

The CRPF, which is the lead operations force against Maoists, is also deploying more men to secure the helipads during ascent and descent of helicopters that aid the operations by way of bringing in men and material besides evacuating casualties from conflict areas.