Monday 22 July 2019, 10:52 AM
'Make the army aviation corps a lethal force'
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 11/20/2012 12:00:00 AM

New Delhi: The Indian Army Aviation Corps (AAC) is yet to emerge as a composite third dimensional force multiplier to meet the requirements of an integrated battle scenario of future wars.  Presently AAC has no attack capability and attack helicopters are provided for specific operations in plain areas by IAF.  As IAF attack helicopters such as Mi-25 and Mi- 35 cannot support operations in high altitudes, army have no rotor wing attack assets in high altitude areas.

Chetak (Aerospatiale SA 316 Aloutte III), Cheetah (Aerospatiale SA 315 Lama) and Dhruv of the AAC provide   logistic support in high altitude areas. These helicopters have operated successfully in extremely hostile and challenging conditions but now they have become obsolete.

For specialized roles in the Tactical Battle Area (TBA) the induction of the light utility helicopter (ALH) is underway but the attack, medium and heavy lift helicopters the Army needs, are still held by the  IAF.  The latest information is that the objections of the IAF accepted by the MOD for long have been overruled and now attack helicopters will be handed over to the army.

The 22 armed heavy duty Apache helicopters to be acquired from the US should now be handed over to the army, these are equipped with anti tank, and stringer block missiles thus have an extremely lethal armoury of weapons.  Reports indicate that the army is currently evaluating helicopters from Kamov, Eurocopter  for carrying supplies for the troops deployed in high altitude areas, induction of other light, medium and heavy lift helicopters and fixed wing aircraft too is being considered. 

The production of the light combat helicopter (LCH) by the HAL is another important development. The LCH, a weaponised version of ALH is being designed to operate at high altitudes upto16, 000 feet; this attack helicopter will be a major asset for mountain formations deployed in higher altitudes.

However, the current fleet is rapidly becoming ineffective the induction of new aircraft must be on top priority. If  the projects  under consideration do not materialise soon, and the replacement of vintage Cheetah / Chetak helicopters is delayed any longer the fleet will become unfit for operations  and we will be without a major force multiplier in high altitude areas bordering China.

To make the army aviation a potent force capable of supporting the Indian Army operations across the entire spectrum of conflict in the TBA it must have a mix of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft available in larger numbers. The army helicopter fleet should consist of attack and armed helicopters, heavy, medium and light utility (lift) helicopters and light observation helicopters. There is also a need for helicopters modified for special operations. The aim should be to make the AAC a lethal component of the army capable of operating in all types of terrains and operational situations. A new dimension should be added in   tactical night operations with ability to operate at low levels at night.

 In view of the above a broad structure with the required force level must be provided to the Army Aviation Corps and it must be suitably equipped to meet the needs of the Indian Army. The Army it is believed plans to raise new aviation brigades that will comprise squadrons of various types of helicopters. The concept of “aviation brigades” was developed after several battlefield exercises.

According to plans each aviation brigade will have one squadron for air-lifting heavy equipment, another for reconnaissance purposes and the third squadron of attack helicopters, to provide air support to the advancing tank columns. US 22 Apache AH-64D helicopters and HAL indigenous 179 light combat helicopters (LCH) and  Rudra weaponised Dhruv helicopters may be acquired by the army. Another important requirement will be Reconnaissance and Observation units at Divisional level for direction of artillery fire and evacuation of critical casualties.

Reports indicate that the trials for replacement of existing aging helicopters with the French Eurocopter (Fennec) and Russian Kamov (Ka-226) have been carried out. Both these helicopters are night capable and have fitment for transmitting real time information to ground stations during reconnaissance missions.

It is needless to emphasize that the Army Aviation assets must be modernized at a fast pace to meet the requirements of the battlefield of the future. This is only possible if the government ensures that new state- of- start equipment is provided to AAC both quantitatively and qualitatively. It is also important to create a dedicated cadre of officers in Army Aviation Corps that is trained for all kinds of operations. Besides sophisticated equipment and training army requires personnel with high flying proficiency that are familiar with pattern of operations and ground tactics of the enemy.

Most armies of the world including China and Pakistan have a full fledged air arm, comprising all types of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, there is no reason why we should delay introduction of an integrated air arm in our army any longer.

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'Make the army aviation corps a lethal force'

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