New Delhi: India will receive the first of 80 Mi-17 transport helicopters from Russia by the end of this year, augmenting Air Force`s capability to carry out missions in high-altitude areas and relief operations.
"The first batch of choppers will arrive here from Russia by the end of this year and the remaining are likely to be inducted in phased manner in next four years," IAF officials told a news agency here.
In 2008, India had signed a deal with Russia to supply 80 Mi-17s to replace and augment its existing fleet of around 150 Mi-8 and Mi-17 medium-lift choppers, which have over five tonne load carrying capability and are also used to ferry troops and VIPs.
The Air Force had felt the need of inducting more medium-lift choppers after a spate of natural disasters following the tsunami in December, 2004 and the heavy snowfall in Kashmir in 2005.
Along with the induction of the new choppers, the IAF is also planning to upgrade over 50 choppers from its existing fleet of Mi-8s and Mi-17s.
"This will enhance the life of these Russian-origin choppers by at least another ten years," they said.
In the mountainous areas, Mi-17s have been used to ferry troops and carry loads up to heights of 18,000 feet along the Line of Control.
The Mi-17s are deployed for tasks like ferrying troops, airdropping supplies, evacuating casualties, search and rescue, and ferrying VIPs.
It can carry 15 fully equipped troops and some of these choppers have been equipped with 57 mm rocket pods and machine guns.