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

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