In­dian Army op­er­at­ing from CH-47F Chi­nook

SP's MAI - - SP’S EXCLUSIVES -

The In­dian Air Force is keenly look­ing for­ward to op­er­at­ing the Boe­ing CH-47F Chi­nook. The Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) has cleared the decks for a con­tract for 15 he­li­copters, though an in­ter­nal as­sess­ment sug­gests the IAF may ul­ti­mately look­ing to or­der another 15. Ei­ther way, the Chi­nook brings to bear a gamechang­ing de­liv­ery ca­pa­bil­ity, the kind the In­dian Air Force (IAF) has never had be­fore in terms of flex­i­bil­ity and ac­cess, es­pe­cially in high al­ti­tude ar­eas. The IAF will also em­ploy the Chi­nook for spe­cial op­er­a­tions with the In­dian Army. In fact, SP’s has photographs of the Yudh Ab­hyas 2013 ex­er­cise that took place in May last year that in­volved Chi­nook op­er­a­tions in an sim­u­lated real-world en­vi­ron­ment. The In­dian Army’s 99th Moun­tain Bri­gade and the US Army’s 1st Bri­gade Com­bat Team, 82nd Air­borne Di­vi­sion par­tic­i­pated in the ex­er­cise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, along with the 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cal­vary Reg­i­ment from the US forces; and from In­dia, the 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 5th Gurka Ri­fles; the 50th In­de­pen­dent Para Bri­gade, and the 54th En­gi­neers Reg­i­ment. The ex­er­cise gave In­dian forces their first op­er­a­tional brush (apart from field eval­u­a­tion tri­als of the air­craft that took place in 2010-11) with the Chi­nook.

The IAF will use the Chi­nook for troop trans­port, na­tion build­ing, spe­cial op­er­a­tions, equip­ment trans­port, search and res­cue, hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief, fire­fight­ing, Mede­vac and lo­gis­ti­cal re­sup­ply. As the work­horse of US Army avi­a­tion, the ques­tion is whether the In­dian Army will also look to op­er­ate the Chi­nook, just as it has achieved au­tho­ri­sa­tion to pro­cure its own at­tack he­li­copters (39 AH-64D Apache Block IIIs if the Army’s plans work out). The ques­tions then are th­ese: will con­trol over tac­ti­cal bat­tle­field as­sets stretch to a plat­form like the Chi­nook? Would the Army look at the Chi­nook from the per­spec­tive of its ‘avi­a­tion bri­gade’ plans? Prob­a­bly most im­por­tant, will the gov­ern­ment step in, send out a clear mes­sage on joint­man­ship and syn­er­gies be­tween the forces and ra­tio­nalise pro­cure­ments so that a stretched bud­get doesn’t in­volve op­er­a­tional over­laps as is bound to be the case with anti-ar­mour air support?

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