Army Aviation Corps (India)
|Army Aviation Corps|
Army Aviation badge
|Active||1 November 1986 – Present|
|Allegiance||Republic of India|
|Role||Battlefield support, reconnaissance|
|Size||Approx. 136 aircraft|
|Attack||HAL Rudra, HAL LCH|
|Transport||HAL Dhruv, HAL Chetak, HAL Cheetah and Cheetal|
In 1984, the Indian Army's Northern Command inducted the HAL Cheetah into the Siachen Glacier. The pilots were put to the ultimate test professionally and also in terms of human endurance. In 1986, the "Air Observation Post" units were transferred from the Indian Air Force to the Indian Army to form the Army Aviation branch. Using nine helicopter squadrons, Army Aviation has supported ground units by carrying men and material in the highest battlefield on earth, culminating in the conquest of the entire 72 km of the Siachen Glacier. Innumerable skirmishes and confrontations are taking place in the ongoing operations in the Siachen Glacier and the Army Aviation Corps is providing the required support for sustenance of troops.
The Sri Lankan operations saw full-fledged jungle warfare application of the army's aviation resources in extremely hostile conditions. The Corps won laurels for its daring performance in the face of all odds. The Corps has also been operating in the jungle, mountain and riverine terrains of India since long.
A unit of the Army Aviation Corps had the unique distinction of operating in Somalia, as part of UNOSOM-II (United Nations Operation in Somalia-II), from October 1993 to November 1994. During these operations, the flight flew over 2000 hours without any accident and maintained 100% serviceability in an environment akin to desert terrain. Army aviators have also been operating in the desert areas since long. In fact, some of the Army's biggest battles and peacetime exercises have been carried out in the deserts and areas contiguous to the plains of Punjab. The Corps has an exposure of participating in a war-like scenario in the Kargil Conflict.
The army aviation pilots are drawn from other combat arms, including artillery officers, to form a composite third dimensional force for an integrated battle. IAF operates & flies attack Helicopters like the Mil Mi-25/Mi-35 and HAL Rudra which are owned and administered by the Indian Air Force, but under the operational control of the Army & play a major role to support the armoured columns and infantry. Apart from the attack role, helicopters like the HAL Chetak, HAL Cheetah and HAL Dhruv provide logistical support for the Indian Army in remote and inaccessible areas, especially in the Siachen Glacier.
Army Aviation Corps(AAC) also perform tasks like Combat search and rescue (CSAR), artillery lift, Combat transportation, logistics relief, military prisoner transportation and Medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) during war and in the case of natural calamities.
Training is imparted to all candidates at the Combat Army Aviation Training School (CATS) at Nashik. The Army Aviation training was previously conducted in School of Artillery, Deolali. But now it is carried out in an independent Combat Air Training School also at Deolali.
The Cheetah helicopter simulator has been set up at Combat Army Aviation Training School (CATS). It is expected to reduce substantial cost in training and also to reduce pilot risk during training. The simulator is designed to expose the trainee to different weather conditions like snow, rain, storm and different terrains in addition to night flying training in handling emergencies, tactical handling of the flying machine, its different maneuvers and more. The project to install a simulator was proposed in December 2000 and approved in April 2002, with CATS Nashik chosen as the centre for installation. Macmet Technologies Ltd, which won the bid over Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), completed the project by 2005 at a cost of Rs 16.26 crore. After stringent checks, the facility was accepted by the army in December 2005.
The Indian Army operates 136 helicopters as of 2015.
Future of the Army Aviation Corps
The army is currently[when?] evaluating helicopters from Kamov, Eurocopter and AgustaWestland for the 197 light helicopter contract for lifting supplies for the troops stationed at high altitudes. The $750 million deal for the 197 helicopters for the defence forces aims to replace the aging 1970s-vintage Chetak and Cheetah helicopters and will be for high altitude, surveillance and logistics. The successful bidder will provide 60 helicopters in a flyaway condition, while the remaining 137 aircraft will be licence-produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Under the offsets clause, the winning bidder must also invest at least 30% of the contracted cost in India.
In December 2014, Kamov Ka-226T was selected for the role of Light Utility Helicopter and as an initial replacement for Obsolete Chetak and Cheetah, while the LUH is under development. Kamov would set up a production plant in India and around 197 would be procured under the "Make in India" program.
The army is also planning to acquire HAL Light Combat Helicopter, which is under development by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to meet its requirements for an attack helicopter which can operate at high altitude (16,300 feet) to fit into an anti-armour and anti-infantry role. The army is also planning to acquire a 3-tonne single-engine HAL Light Utility Helicopter which is also under development for recce and observation role. As of 2007 the Army Aviation Corps modernisation plans were:
Other future acquisition plans are:
- Boeing AH-64 Apache - The Government of India approved the purchase of 6 helicopters in August 2017.
- Reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters – HAL Dhruv will replace the existing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. While some helicopters will be procured as ‘Buy’ category, others will be ‘Designed and Developed’ by HAL as ‘Make’ category. RFP for the former has been issued and the procurement was likely to commence soon.
- Tactical Battle Support Helicopter - This is being developed as a tri-services project by HAL. The helicopter will be called Indian Multi Role Helicopter. By 2007 the procurement process had already been "set into motion" for battle support helicopters. These machines should be capable of carrying 10–12 men into the battlefield.
- Special operations squadron - A special operations squadron is being raised to provide dedicated integral aviation support to the Para Commandos.
- 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 and communication tasks.
- DRDO Imperial Eagle
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