The IAF has signed for two squadrons of badly needed Mi-17 helicopters for a sum of US$160 million bringing the cost of each machine to around Rs 19 crores. This, in today's market is cheaper than the Western prices. The delivery will take place in the next 13 months and the contract is with the major Russian Aircraft Public Company, AVIAEXPORT that operates world wide and has strong links in India. The twin engined powerful Mi-17  is capable of rocket and machine gun firing. It is known as the ' work horse ' of the IAF, well known to Indian Pilots as the make-shift attack and transport multi-role helo, which gave a good account of itself in the Kargil Heights. One went down on 27 May 1999 in Operation Safeed Sagar to a Pakistani Stinger missile, but the IAF rallied with innovation - the hall mark of a professional service. The use of air power contributed to the ultimate success of the Army which cleared the Pakistani intruders. The Government speedily asked the Services for their immediate ' Wish List '. With the Mi-8s aging, the additional Mi-17s will be welcome and an essential addition to the IAF's inventory. Women pilots are also flying the Mi-17. The IAF has all Russian helicopters - the Mi-8, Mi-17 and the big multimode bird the MI-35.


The use of helicopters in the Gulf War, Op Pawan, Kargil, Chechneya and relief operations by the US and British forces in Liberia and other evacuations has been both accepted and proved. Helicopters are capable of attack, EW surveillance, recce and targeting roles, as well as casualty evacuation and transportation. An important point is that they need no airfields. The US companies BELL and Boeing have manufactured a tilt rotor V22 which can fly as an aircraft and a helicopter. However, following the recent crash of one, killing over 20 US Service men, the trial fleet is grounded. This combined role though, appears to be the future trend.

The Indian Army is a also scouting for an attack helicopter. The Ranger, a small attack helicopter, based on the Allouette platform, and produced by HAL, has been tried out by the Army. The Indian Navy's fleet consists of Allouettes, Sea Eagle missile firing Sea Kings and Ka-28 ASW platforms.  Mr. George Fernandes's recent statement revealed that four KA-31 EW versions have been ordered for the Navy.

Disclaimer Copyright