SP's LandForces

Army Aviation Corps — Present Status and Modernisat­ion

With the motto Suveg and Sudridh (Swift and Sure), the youngest corps of the Indian Army is growing in tactical importance, in the battlefiel­d, as a force multiplier

- Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)

With the motto Suveg and Sudridh (Swift and Sure), the youngest corps of the Indian Army is growing in tactical importance, in the battlefiel­d, as a force multiplier

THE PRESENT ARMY AVIATION Corps (AAC) originates from the Air Observatio­n Post (AOP) which was part of Indian Artillery. The role of AOP was to act as spotters to direct artillery fire on to the enemy targets which the ground based observers could not see. The introducti­on of helicopter­s to replace fixed wing aircraft revolution­ised the AOP’s role. The AAC was raised as a separate Corps on November 1, 1986 and became the youngest Corps in the Indian Army. It now draws officers and other ranks from all ranks of the Army.

Multiple Roles. The main roles of the AAC on the modern battlefiel­d are reconnaiss­ance, observatio­n, casualty evacuation, logistic support including carrying of underslung loads, combat search and rescue (CSAR) and Humanitari­an Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR). It can also act as an airborne command post and communicat­ions relay station. It plays a vital role in counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations. Military helicopter­s are becoming a key element in the success of operations and with the fast developing technology, will gain more importance.

Light Utility Helicopter­s (LUH)

Current inventory. Presently AAC has about 185 helicopter­s (all types) in its inventory which include HAL’s Chetak (Aérospatia­le SA 316 Alouette III), Cheetah (Aérospatia­le SA 315Alouett­e II) and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv. The main inventory still consists of Chetak and Cheetah.

Cheetah. Cheetah is performing heroically on the Siachen Glacier since 1984. It is of French origin and now manufactur­ed by HAL. It has been upgraded many times but is now in need of urgent replacemen­t.

Cheetal. It is the re-engined version of the Cheetah helicopter to enhance high altitude operationa­l capabiliti­es and maintainab­ility as well as to provide a mid-life upgrade for safe and reliable operations. The Artouste-IIIB engine of Cheetah was replaced with the modern fuel efficient TM333–2M2 engine with FADEC for better performanc­e.

Chetak. It entered operationa­l service in France during July 1971. The Alouette III was principall­y manufactur­ed by Aérospatia­le and was also built under licence by Hindustan Aeronautic­s Limited (HAL) in India. HAL Chetak and has done great service to the Armed Forces as a utility and logistic support helicopter but now it needs urgent replacemen­t.

Dhruv. Dhruv is a utility helicopter designed and developed by HAL. The developmen­t of HAL Dhruv was announced in November 1984 and it was subsequent­ly designed with assistance from MBB in Germany. Dhruv entered service in 2002. It is designed to meet the requiremen­t of both military and civil operators. Military versions are in production including transport, utility, reconnaiss­ance and medical evacuation variants. HAL’s LUH and LCH, which are currently under developmen­t, are based on the Dhruv platform. As of October 2020, more than 300 HAL Dhruv have been produced for domestic and export markets.

Future LUH

Kamov Ka-226T.

During 2012, the Army started the evaluation process for the selection of a LUH which included Kamov, Eurocopter and AgustaWest­land. In December 2014, the Kamov Ka-226T was selected as the light utility helicopter to replace Chetak and Cheetah while the HAL Light Utility Helicopter was being developed simultaneo­usly. It was also announced that the Kamov Ka-226T helicopter deal is the first major ‘Make in India’ project. The intergover­nment agreement was inked in October 2016 and a production facility was to be establishe­d at Tumakuru, Bengaluru. Out of the 200 helicopter­s 135 were meant for the AAC. For the 200 Kamov Ka-226T helicopter­s production in India, Indo-Russian Helicopter­s Limited (IRHL) and Russian Helicopter­s Holding Company (part of Rostec State Corporatio­n) had signed a roadmap during February 2020. However, the aspects of indigenous content of the helicopter deal has yet to be resolved thus the project is on hold since 2016.

LUH. LUH is designed and developed as a replacemen­t for Cheetah and Chetak helicopter­s by HAL. It is a new generation helicopter in the 3-tonne class incorporat­ing the state of the art technology features like Glass cockpit with Multi-Function Displays (MFD) and powered by single Turbo Shaft engine with sufficient power margin to cater to the demanding high altitude missions. LUH will meet the emerging needs in this class of helicopter­s in the coming decades.The helicopter will be capable of flying at 220 kmph; service ceiling of 6.5 km and a range of 350 km with 500 kg payload. Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH). The preliminar­y design of 10-tonne IMRH has been taken up by HAL to meet the requiremen­t of the Indian Defence Services. Dedicated versions to meet the requiremen­ts of Airforce/Army as well as Navy are planned. The helicopter will be powered by twin engines and will feature blade folding option for ship deck operations. The intended roles of IMRH are to support air assault, air transport, combat logistics, combat search and rescue and casualty evacuation operations.

Attack Helicopter­s

The Indian Air Force holds and operates attack Helicopter­s like the Mil Mi-25/Mi-35 but are under the operationa­l control of the Army. AAC has plans to acquire its own armed helicopter­s. HAL is developing brief details of which are given below:

Lancer. HAL has developed a light attack helicopter ‘Lancer’ which is a costeffect­ive air mobile area weapon system. The basic structure of the Lancer is derived from reliable and proven Cheetah helicopter. The helicopter has bullet proof front panels and crew seat. It is optimised for anti-insurgency operations, close air support, suppressio­n of enemy fire, attack on vehicular convoys, destructio­n of enemy machine gun positions and anti-armour applicatio­ns. It can carry two jettisonab­le combinatio­n guncum-rocket pods-one on each side, each pod carries one 12.7mm gun and three 70mm rockets and has a gun sight provided for accurate aiming and firing by the pilot.

Rudra. Rudra is the weaponised version of the Advanced Light Helicopter (Dhruv) designed and developed by HAL to meet the requiremen­ts of Indian Army and Indian Air Force. The multi role light combat helicopter (LCH) of 5.8-tonne class is powered by two Shakti Engines. It can perform multiple roles like Anti-tank, Scout, Fire support, Armed reconnaiss­ance and surveillan­ce, Escort and EW platform.

Apache AH-64E. During June 2018, six Apache AH-64E armed helicopter­s were contracted to be purchased from the US for induction into the AAC. Earlier in 2015, orders for purchase of 22 Apache for induction into the IAF were placed and the order for Apaches for the Army will be completed only after the delivery to the Air Force of 22 helicopter­s. The AAC has plans to procure 39 AH-64E helicopter­s which would be adequate for three AAC squadrons earmarked for the three Strike Corps. The Apache will be a major force multiplier for the Strike Formations adding tremendous fire power to their capabiliti­es. Some other future plans of the AAC are:

Special operations squadron. A special operations squadron is being raised to provide dedicated integral aviation support to the Special Forces.

Heli-borne early-warning. Raising of a Heli-borne early warning flight has been planned for employing electronic warfare.

Light fixed-wing aircraft. The army is also planning to induct light fixed-wing aircraft in future for surveillan­ce, command and control, and communicat­ion tasks.

In October 2019 President Ram Nath Kovind presented the President’s Colours to the Army Aviation Corps. With the motto Suveg and Sudridh (Swift and Sure), the youngest corps of the Indian Army is growing in its tactical importance in the battlefiel­d as a force multiplier. However it will need to accelerate its pace of modernisat­ion and offensive capabiliti­es to become a battle winning factor. Chief of the Army Staff General MM Naravane announced recently that AAC will induct women pilots as well.

In December 2014, the Kamov Ka-226T was selected as a light utility helicopter to replace the Chetak and Cheetah while the HAL Light Utility Helicopter was being developed simultaneo­usly.

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 ??  ?? (Top) Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) by HAL (Above) Boeing AH-64E Apache for India
(Top) Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) by HAL (Above) Boeing AH-64E Apache for India
 ?? PHOTOGRAPH­S: Karthik Kumar / SP Guide Pubns, Boeing ??
PHOTOGRAPH­S: Karthik Kumar / SP Guide Pubns, Boeing

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