Attack helicopters for Indian Army
The need is for dedicated air crew not only proficient in flying but also associated full time with army manoeuvres, operational thinking and ground tactics, as well as time spend in the field. The present structure is not suited for the short, swift and
[By Lt General (Retd) B.S. Pawar]
All major armies of the world, including our adversaries China and Pakistan have full-fledged air wings of their own with all types of helicopters, including attack helicopters and fixed wing aircraft in their inventory. The Government in USA and UK had to intervene to facilitate the formation of a separate Army Aviation Corps, despite strong objections by their respective air force. During the Vietnam War (1959-75), the US Army had more helicopters (rotor wing aircraft) than all of the branches combined (Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard). However, the Indian Army continues to be denied the rightful ownership of attack helicopters, despite the fact that this flying machine and weapon platform is acquired only for supporting ground forces in the battlefield. Stale arguments are put forward again and again to justify the unjustifiable.
The primary mission of Army Aviation is to fight the land battle and support ground operations. It operates in the tactical battle area (TBA) as a combined arms team expanding the ground commander’s battlefield in space and time. Its battlefield leverage is achieved through a combination of mobility and firepower, that is unprecedented in land warfare and hence it is the centrepiece of land force operations. Its greatest contribution to battlefield success is the fact that it gives the commander the ability to apply decisive combat power at critical times virtually anywhere in the battlefield. This may be in the form of direct fire from aviation manoeuvre units (attack/armed helicopters) or insertion of ground forces at the point of decision. This versatility is the essence of Army Aviation due to which it can be effectively employed right from commencement of offensive till conflict termination. The assets required for the above manoeuvre, the attack and assault helicopters, must be at the beck and call of a field force commander and also piloted by men in olive green who fully understand the ground situation, are from the same background and speak the same language. This will ensure the optimum utilisation of the battle winning resource.
Oft repeated arguments
In a recent article in The Times of India, Pune edition titled “The War Within: Army vs IAF in New Turf Battle”, the author has dwelt on the old and tedious arguments of the Air Force as to why Army should not have attack helicopters? Perhaps the author is not aware of the fact that this issue was first raised by the Army in 1963 and the socalled turf war unfortunately continues to rage till date. I would like to highlight two issues raised in the article, purportedly the views of the Air Force. Firstly, the remark that Army does not have an aviation culture and therefore is not capable of operating and maintaining attack/heavy helicopters is not only shocking and condemnable but
Light combat helicopter in flight