Indian Army operating from CH-47F Chinook
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?