New Delhi: Aiming to strengthen its medium-lift helicopter fleet, the IAF is planning to procure 59 more Mi-17 IV choppers in addition to the 80 ordered earlier from Russia.
The 80 choppers ordered in 2008 will be for enhancing the medium-lift helicopter fleet of the IAF whereas the next 59 would be used for replacing the older ones in the existing fleet which will be phased out in coming years, defence ministry officials said here.
The proposal for acquiring the 59 choppers has already been cleared by the defence acquisition council and will be put up for cabinet committee on security clearance soon, they said.
India will start receiving the first of 80 Mi-17 transport helicopters from Russia by the end of this year which will help in augmenting its capability to carry out missions in high-altitude areas and relief operations.
The remaining choppers are likely to be inducted in phased manner in next four years.
In 2008, India had signed a deal with Russia to supply 80 Mi-17s to 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.
The IAF is also going to acquire light utility, heavy-lift and attack choppers in the near future to expand its rotary wing fleet.
The trials for procuring all the three class of choppers are on in different parts of the country.
With sale of equipment such as the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, additional Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft, Mi-17 helicopters, Moscow has continued to be among the top defence hardware suppliers to New Delhi, which relies heavily on imports for its defence needs.