NEW DELHI: Adding more muscle to its operational capability, the Air Force on Friday inducted Russian winged beauties - the brand new Mi-17 V5 helicopters - in its inventory that will give it an extra edge while flying through tough terrains, including Naxal-infested jungles.
The helicopters have night-vision devices so that it can operate all through the day and night and its highly ballistic resistant surface would be advantageous for the IAF while carrying out reconnaissance and transport duties in support of paramilitary forces countering Naxals. While inducting the helicopters, Defence Minister A K Antony said that while India always strived for peace, “the developments around” the country has “necessitated the building of defence capability”.
Three squadrons of the helicopters will come up, one each in Bhatinda, Punjab on Western Border, in Srinagar and in Bagdogra, West Bengal in the east. These helicopters are the lifeline of the Armed Forces as they fly support and supply missions to the remote, inaccessible and inhospitable part of the country as the transport aircraft can only land on airfields. India has signed a contract with its age-old patron Russia for the acquisition of 80 Mi-17 V5 helicopters at the cost of $1.38 billion. The first of the lot was delivered in 2011 and since then the machines have been undergoing the pre-induction test. The remaining copters are scheduled to be supplied by 2014. India is also likely to place a follow-on order for 59 more helicopters valued at $1 billion.