Army to seek combat helicopters from Air Force
Weeks after it was sanctioned combat air wing by the Government, the Army is seeking transfer of attack helicopters from the Air Force at the earliest.
New Delhi: Weeks after it was sanctioned combat air wing by the Government, the Army is seeking transfer of attack helicopters from the Air Force at the earliest.
"We are sending a proposal to the Defence Ministry for capability enhancement in our aviation wing for absorbing the attack helicopters in our fleet," Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh told PTI here.
He said the officials concerned have also been told to develop philosophies for using the attack choppers in different roles in the different parts of the country.
The Army Chief did not give details but sources said the proposal would include transfer of attack helicopters from the Air Force as also the soon-to-be-procured US-made Apache choppers.
Asked about the timelines, the sources said the Army would like to have these at the earliest.
These are planned to be deployed by the Army along the borders with China and Pakistan as part of its efforts to strengthen defence preparedness.
The Army already has aviation wing but Defence Minister AK Antony recently approved a long-pending demand of the 1.3 million-strong force for attack helicopters, overruling stiff opposition by the Air Force.
The sanction made it clear that all "future" procurements of such helicopters would be for the Army.
The Army had been demanding attack helicopters saying these are mainly used for operations by it. The IAF had been strongly resisting it, with its Chief ACM NAK Browne saying the country cannot afford to have "small air forces".
The measures for capability enhancement of Army`s aviation wing would include transfer of attack helicopters of the IAF including 22 Apache attack choppers which are in the process of being procured from the US, Army sources said.
The case for 22 Apaches is being processed by the IAF which held field evaluation trials for them and now the Defence Ministry is in the final stages of procurement of these combat assets.
As part of its efforts to bolster its aviation wing, the Army wants to set up aviation brigades at the Corps Headquarters-level at all the 13 such formations.
For the three Strike Corps deployed in Mathura, Ambala and Bhopal, it wants advanced attack choppers such as the Apache and for the remaining 10 Corps, it wants them to be equipped with the Rudra choppers, which are the weaponised versions of the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH).
The strength of the personnel in the Army Aviation Corps, which till now draws officers and men from the various other arms of the force, is also planned to be increased.
There is also a plan to commission officers directly into the Aviation Corps from the Army training academies in Dehradun, Chennai and Gaya.
The Aviation Corps operates over 250 of the light utility Cheetah/Chetak choppers and the indigenously-devloped ALH Dhruvs at its bases in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeastern states. These are small helicopters mainly used for transport purposes.