New Delhi: India will Friday induct the modern Mi-17V5 helicopter, its latest buy from Russia, into the air force to ferry troops and supplies to remote borders and mountain areas.
The helicopters, 80 of which were bought in 2008 for $1.34 billion, were delivered to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in September 2011. These are meant to strengthen the helicopter fleet, an IAF statement said Thursday.
"The induction will enhance the capabilities of the IAF manifold in undertaking varied roles to face the challenges thrown in by unforgiving weather, hostile environment and difficult terrain," it added.
The helicopter is an upgrade of Mi-17 class of rotary wing aircraft in the medium-lift category, which IAF presently uses.
The Mi-17s carry troops and supplies to remote helipads closer to border posts. Russian origin IL-76 and AN-32 transporters fly only to airfields.
Russia has till date delivered 21 of the 80-chopper fleet to IAF, and another six will join the fleet by March end. Once all the 80 helicopters are delivered by 2014, India may order for 59 more of these choppers at a cost of $1 billion.
Even as the defence ministry inducts these advanced military transport helicopters, the home ministry too has decided to buy six of these for logistics in Maoist-affected districts.
The IAF plans to base the first lot of these choppers at Bhatinda in Punjab and in Srinagar.
The Mi-17V5 falls in the category of an armed helicopter, with substantial and effective firepower.
It is fitted with the latest and more powerful engines that will greatly enhance its payload carriage capability at higher altitudes.
With a glass cockpit, this is the first such helicopter to be inducted into the IAF.
Having an on board weather radar, state-of-the-art autopilot system, the helicopter is compatible with the latest generation-III night vision goggles.
"With this, the helicopter can undertake all-weather, day and night operations in any kind of terrain," the release said.
The helicopter is also equipped with a Bambi-Bucket that can be used for fire-fighting. It is also fitted with a powerful winch -- a feature useful in disaster relief operations in areas where landing is not possible.
It has a modified loading ramp for faster loading and off-loading, apart from the traditional rear clamshells. A starboard door and a `dolphin` shaped nose section give it a unique identity.
"The entire airframe has a high degree of ballistics tolerance and is crash-resistant. It also comes equipped with an emergency flotation system. Its internal cabin volume is sufficient for transporting fully-equipped infantry soldiers for specialised operations," the IAF said.
The IAF first inducted helicopters in 1954 and has operated them in Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world.
"With the induction of Mi-17V5, the capability and strength of the helicopter fleet in the IAF will increase significantly," the statement said.