Sunday, June 23, 2013

Flood Rescue Underscores 2 Pending IAF Deals

The massive flood relief operations in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand has seen the Indian Air Force and Army Aviation corps deployed in the greatest strength since the 2004 tsunami in the Indian ocean. 45 Indian Air Force aircraft, 11 choppers from the Army, and a small fleet of civilian rotorcraft are working round the clock -- and against time -- to evacuate the most hostile areas of stranded pilgrims and tourists, a week after the state was ravaged by early monsoon flashfloods and torrential rain. The situation remains critical, but the one thing it has done is underscore the importance of two contracts in the pipeline by the IAF as being well worth the time and money that will be spent.

The first is the Lockheed-Martin C-130J Super Hercules. The IAF has three flying out there, landing on short airfields in bad weather -- something it wouldn't do with any of its other transports -- conducting all manner of relief, including personnel insertion, standby hospital services, fuel delivery, evacuation of patients and pilgrims, reconnaissance, surveillance and disaster mapping. The Uttarakhand flood has been the C-130Js first real trial by fire over Indian terrain. For pilots of the 77 Squadron which operates six out of Hindon on Delhi's outskirts, the aircraft is a joy, and they can't wait to get six more. The Indian government is in the final stages of placing an order for six more from the US government.

The second is the IAF's selection of the Boeing CH-47F Chinook. The IAF has a lot of helicopters over Uttarakhand right now, but only one heavylift Mi-26, possibly the only airframe still serviceable. The IAF chose the Chinook over a new generation variant of the Mi-26 in a competitive selection that ended last year. The Mi-26, a glorious chopper that happens to be the largest ever that went into production, is still gravely unsuited for operations in mountainous areas, where its large footprint severely limits where it can hover and land. It's immense downwash is also a problem during emergency evacuations. IAF pilots I've been speaking to say they can't wait till the Chinooks arrive, since their design and capabilities lend perfectly to rescue and relief operations in tricky terrain in all weather.

The IAF has had to muster an unusual level of availability to cater to the demands that the state government in Uttarakhand has made on it. The official current break-up of aircraft (36 choppers and 9 fixed wing) deployed for rescue and relief operations is:
  • Mi-17 IV / V5 x 23
  • HAL Dhruv x 11
  • Cheetah x 2
  • Mi-26 x 1
  • C-130J x 3
  • An-32 x 3
  • HS748 Avro x 1
  • Ilyushin-76 x 1
The work-up and tempo of operations has been remarkable, given the constraints and limitations the IAF works under even with some of its newer equipment like the Mi-17 V5s that along with the IV constitute the single largest type deployed for the entire gamut of operations, and have as usual emerged the commendable and reliable workhorses of Operation Rahat. But the IAF has recognised that it needs more and larger choppers capable of rapid deployment and high rates of availability. The three An-32s deployed are all from an upgraded batch, and remain a joy to fly for pilots who swear by their reliability.

The recent arrival of the IAF's first C-17 Globemaster III, practically in the middle of the disastrous weather, is timely though it won't be deployed in the current operations. Had it arrived a month or two before, it's possible that the heavy transport would have cut its Indian teeth over Uttarakhand.


Anurag said...

it's time to buy more C-130J's and Induct CH-47 as early as possible,

finalize the Chopper deal for army....

because its not the



Anonymous said...

Wrong on the helicopter front. There are 17 Mi-17V5 helicopters doing the hard work. Why have you not mentioned that? In terms of absolute numbers, it is the single most used platform out there.

If i had not been a regular at your blog, i would have taken your post differently, but such wrong analysis is really not expected of you.

Shiv Aroor said...

Read the numbers carefully.

Anonymous said...

I saw a video on one of the channels ( NDTV i believe ) where 2 cheetahs were visible.

Sancho said...

Anonymous is right, this article looks more like US PR campaign, than presenting the reality of the operations now.
Isn't it true that in the first days there wasn't suitable airstrips available for the fixed wing aircraft's, which limited even the C130J's to recon missions only?
In Fact the first landing of the C130J was not in a rescue or evacuation mission, but to provide fuel for the Dhruv's and Mi 17s, that actually are doing the bulk of the work right now and which you strangely don't praised here.

Btw, the Mi 26 was used for exactly the same mission before the C130J could do it and reportedly carried 30 fuel barrels and 70 troops. Which means that it bridget the time till fixed wing aircraft operations were limited, which also would have been worth to mention!

The short take off and landing capability is good compared to the older IAF transport fleet, but still works only when you have suitable airstrips, especially in such mountainous areas. If not, you definitely need a capable transport helicopter fleet, to set up an airlift and that's what the Dhruv, the Mi 17, but also the Mi 26 did so far in a very good manner as it seems.
So instead of looking even at Ch47's that aren't participating in the operations today, you should have pointed out the performance of these aircraft's and might have asked for faster inductions and further orders of Dhruvs and Mi 17s.

guru prasanna said...

Sancho, what is "PR" about it? The Hercules and Chinook have already been selected. Stop finding fault with straight facts and some editorial analysis. We have been readers on this blog long enough to know that shiv aroor does not hold a brief for any country or company. your insinuation is silly and offensive.

nirranj prabhu said...

Sir what about the dhruvs?

I am eager to know how they Are doing out there in himalayas...

Im lucky said...

I feel Anonymous is right, I feel something wrong with shiv in this post. Why are we talking about chinook, while mi-17 and mi-26 working actually. Mi-26 is really a mighty helicopter. I feel something has gone wrong with shiv in this case(are you promoting chinook helicopter?). I did not find such kind of post from shiv in the past.

Sorry if it hurts any body

Anonymous said...

the more important question is why is that we have not deployed around 100 IAF choppers? - what is preventing that? - in such a time critical situation won't that save more lives?

Why only 30-40 choppers? surely we can delploy much greater numbers...

guru prasanna said...

dear "im lucky", the mi-26 is working fine you say? do you even know the serviceability data of that chopper. shiv is not pitching any new platform. he is merely saying that the current operations have somewhat validated the iaf's decision to go in for platforms tailormade and proven in humanitarian relief operations. what is wrong with that? if anything it is pro-iaf and lauding their decision. i think we have become complacent. there are blogs which take sides on equipment etc. don't think livefist is one of them. you can seek balance, or you can seek facts. either way, i don't think there is anything to be suspicious about as far as shiv is concerned. i for one trust him fully. i have been reading livefist for five years and not once have i ever found reason to believe shiv is holding a brief for any country or company. he is entirely open about his visits also.

Anonymous said...

What rubbish "Im lucky". Do you not read this blog regularly. Nothing of the sort can be said about shiv. Can personally vouch. Have followed since the beginning. If your intention is to sling mud, i would urge shiv to filter out such silly comments.

sents said...

Ch47-chinook is more maneuverable than Mi-26. It can land in places where MI-26 cannot. For sure IAF misses Chinook and C13OJ-super Hercules, there is nothing to doubt Shiv here. Both went through tough selection process and IAF has made their decision long time ago.I will say 40 C17Globemaster III, 24 C130J super Hercules and 40CH47-Chinook are needed for a country as populated as India.

Hrishikesh said...

What happens if the Chinook goes down? Read this on wiki -

For their ruggedness which is required in Indian conditions no machines can match the Russians.

Ask the engineers who built mud runways for An 32s in Tuting in 1980s in AP. Bet, no C 130s can match the An 32s. This fascination with American machines will prove to be our undoing when Uncle Sam stops the supply of spares.

Bame Duniya said...

All said and done this blog is quite informative despite some prejudice about MI helicopters.

The airstrips at Dharashu, Gochar and Naini Saini have been around for a long time and they are all more than 1 kms long and thus can take in C 130s very easily. They are not really STOL strips.