New Delhi: The IAF helicopters currently
serving in UN missions in Congo and Sudan will return to India
beginning this month-end, primarily to augment the transport
fleet and in support of the Army in desert terrains along the
borders with Pakistan.
"The IAF helicopters in United Nations mission will be
coming back by end of October," Western Air Command Air
Officer Commanding-in-Chief Air Marshal N A K Browne told a
press conference here today.
On an IAF proposal citing its helicopter fleet being
stretched to its limits, the Defence Ministry wrote to the
External Affairs Ministry in June this year that the 17 Mi-17
medium lift helicopter, eight Mi-35 and Mi-25 attack in the UN
missions in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan
should be de-inducted and brought back for internal security
While the Mi-17s are likely to augment the transport fleet
of the IAF in view of four such helicopters busy serving in
logistics role in the country`s anti-Naxal operations in
central India, the attack helicopters would be used to provide
support roles to the Army troops deployed in the deserts of
Rajasthan along the Indo-Pak borders.
"The Mi-35s will get back to Suratgarh, its home base.
These will be refurbished and re-painted (in IAF colours).
Gradually there will be a build of the fleet in the Suratgarh
unit," Browne said.
Suratgarh will also become home for a Mi-17IV unit in May-
June next year, as part of the IAF`s plans to strengthen the
transport helicopter fleet in the deserts, he added.
Mi-17IVs will also be based in Srinagar in Jammu and
Kashmir following the Suratgarh deployment.
"Our resources have been stretched to the limit,
particularly the helicopter fleet. For six to seven years,
they have been deployed in the UN peace-keeping missions. They
have taken a huge amount of workload over the years. So the
Air Maintenance headquarters felt we should get these back in
time and use them within India itself," Browne said on the
justification for recalling the helicopters from Congo and
He clarified that the attack helicopters, got back from
UN, would not be used in the anti-Naxal operations. "These
attack helicopters are not for use in the anti-Naxal
operations. No," he replied to a query in this regard,
pointing out that these helicopters would be used only for
supporting the troops in deserts.
Browne said the attack helicopter`s task had increased
within India and there was "tremendous amount" of need to get
more more helicopters for use by the IAF internally.
He said the 80 Mi-17 helicopters being bought from Russia
was for supplementing the air force`s transport tasks and in
aid of civilian authorities for flood relief and casualty