INDIAN ARMY SETS NEW HELICOPTER PURCHASE TARGETS
By Bulbul Singh
23 Nov 05. The Indian Army has begun implementing a plan under which it will procure over 300 helicopters of various varieties from overseas markets in the next ten years. The multi million dollar plan has been put into operation after the Indian Army insisted that it should not be dependent on the Indian Air Force for combat helicopters and other varieties of helicopters. The aim is to strengthen the Aviation Corps of the Indian Army, said an Indian Army official.
Under the plan the Indian Army will procure around 200 armed aero scout helicopters for which Bell Textron’s 407 ARH and Eurocopter’s AS 550B3 helicopters are in the race. The Indian Army will complete trials of these helicopters in the next year and begin short listing of the machines to be bought said the Indian Army official. The Indian Army plans to buy 60 helicopters outright with the remainder built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Besides, the Indian Army will induct over 80 medium lift assault helicopters like the Mi 17V-5 helicopters and over 50 homegrown Advanced Light Helicopters.
For conducting flight operations in support of special operations forces, the Kazan Helicopters MI 17V 5 has been selected. Around 80 such helicopters will be procured at a cost of around $6m each which will be equipped with an avionics package to the Advanced Light Helicopters.
After years of pressure on the Indian defense ministry to have an independent helicopter force, in 1986 the “Air Observation Post” units were transferred from the Air Force to the Army to form the Army Aviation branch. Using nine helicopter squadrons, Army Aviation supported ground units in the Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir and in Sri Lanka, as well as counterinsurgency operations in various parts of the country.
Currently the Indian Army has around 200 helicopters consisting of the homegrown Advanced Light Helicopters numbering 35, Cheetah and Chetaks numbering around 165 helicopters. The aviation plan of the Indian Army envisages setting up of aviation brigades at Corps and Command Headquarters and making strike formations leaner with their own attack, surveillance and special operations helicopters.
It is under this plan that the Aviation Corps has planned to the 10 tone class helicopters to replace the Cheetahs and Chetaks to ferry equipment to the upper reaches of Jammu and Kashmir including the Siachen glacier.
The Indian Army says that the acquisition of new helicopters is imperative for providing 24-hour close air support over the battle area.
The homegrown Advanced Light Helicopters to be acquired by the Indian Army will be equipped with a display mission computer, radar altimeter, and transponder developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization, DRDO. The other equipment to be incorporated on the homegrown Advanced Light Helicopter to be built at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Ban galore include, glass cockpit avionics suite , twin control and display units for data entry, flight management, sub systems control and system status display and secure communications suite supplied by the Israeli Aircraft Industries of Israel.
So far two rounds of trials have been held for the Bell and Eurocopter’s Fennec helicopters. The wining model will be equipped with a turret mounted optroninics sensors, secure communications suite, a combined pulse Doppler GPS navigation suite, automatic direction finder, distance measuring equipment, marker beacon transponder, three axis auto hover system, plus twin 2.75 rocket pods and 20 mm gun ponds. The Indian Army will become the biggest user of the homegrown Advanced Light Helicopter with the induction of around 120 such helicopters in both the transport and weapons system integrated versions. The Aviation Plan also envisages acquisition of an attack helicopter equipped with guns, rocke