The Corps held a two-day seminar recently with
the title “Army Aviation: The Arm of the Future,”
clearing indicating its emphasis on the requirement
of helicopters in possible future battles, which
would be fluid and fast-changing, and would need
capable flying machines to support the Indian
Army’s armour and troops 24 x 7.
The Indian Army was stated to have half the strength
of Pakistan Army’s helicopter fleet of more than
550, and of course, most of the helicopters with
the Indian armed forces are in any case of Soviet
vintage and outdated.
There was a general demand from serving and retired
Army officers for moving the combat and heavy
lift helicopters from the Indian Air Force to
the Army for operationally better results. At
present, IAF holds these assets, and IAF pilots
operate them in coordination with the Army.
Minister A K Antony, who inaugurated the seminar,
said it would be best if the Armed Forces sorted
out the matter of sharing assets between themselves
and that if needed, he could help play a limited
role. Former Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral
Arun Prakash, also said that any inter-Services
issues should be sorted out by the three Chiefs
themselves, and that in the spirit of give-and-take,
the Army and Navy should also accede to the IAF’s
suggestion for exclusively controlling the Space
The minister however said that the Government
did understand the changing nature of warfare,
terrorism and asymmetric threats, and was committed
to the modernization of the Indian armed forces.
But, he observed:
“Although you (Army Aviation Corps) are going
in for force accretion, while enhancing your capabilities
and performing your role, you must ensure that
there is perfect synergy between the Army and
Air Force. Services will have to act in reconciliation
amongst themselves so that India can have better
and strong and Armed Forces.”
Younger IAF and Army officers pointed out that
the exist ing arrangement had worked well in terms
of IAF-Army coordination but senior officers observed
that it would be best if Army pilots flew the
helicopters in the battlefield in close support
of their colleagues on the ground. That was the
trend the world over, and should be so in case
of India also.
Notably, IAF is set to acquire 22 combat helicopters
and 15 heavy lift helicopters from a choice of
US and Russian machines – depending upon the capabilities
and price – but these are paid for out of the
Army’s budget as they would be used for support
of the ground troops. For a country the size of
India, this is a relatively small number, and
there would perhaps be a repeat acquisition in
the coming years.
At present, both the heavy lift and combat helicopters
with the IAF are of 25-year Soviet vintage with
obsolete onboard systems. IAF has already submitted
the technical evaluation reports to the Ministry
of Defence and a decision is expected by year-end
or March 2012.
Officers from the Navy, Air Force, think tanks
and paramilitary bodies also took part in the
seminar, co-hosted by the Army Aviation and the
Centre for Land Warfare studies (CLAWS), the Indian
Army’s think tank.
Army Chief Gen V K Singh said that emergence
of 4th and 5th generation threats, increasing
tempo, net centric warfare and newer weapons had
placed new demands for capability and strength
and all assets of the Army have to be made integral
to a theatre of operation.
Army Aviation provides a commander the opportunity
to maneuver and “fleeting opportunities” in a
battle can be effectively exploited by airborne
Adm Arun Prakash, a naval aviator, said in his
Special address that the power of aviation is
“omnipotent” and that once air dominance is achieved
in the battle theatre, “the war is virtually won.”
Aviation assets can play a role in achieving decisive
victories, “swiftly and cheaply.”
Lt Gen V K Ahluwalia, Colonel Commandant of
the Corps, gave a brief history of its evolution
when it was first raised on Nov 1, 1986 from the
Artillery’s Air Observation Post (AOP) units.
Its pilots later flew in operations in Sri Lanka
as well as in India.
Helicopters and air assets, he said, would help
in dislocation of an adversary in the shortest
possible time, and simultaneously, provide the
benefits of surprise, maneuver, capability and
logistics support to own units. He also emphasized
on the requirement of multi role aircraft with
electronic warfare and night attack capabilities.
Lt Gen Anil Chait observed that aviation is a
great asset, “giving the power of the edge” to
the Indian Army’s field commanders. It can help
concentrate combat power at the right place, compress
time lines and facilitate multi-tasking. Integrated
employment of air land battle assets can disrupt
an enemy’s buildup and facilitate speedy victory.
He pointed out that the future battles would
be Technology driven, all weather, day and night
24 x 7, and dominated by aviation assets including
the UAVs and UCAVs. Accordingly, the Indian Army
has to keep up with the technologies and pace
of changes to make its aviation assets a game
It will be “the arm of decision,” he observed.
The seminar was also addressed by Brig Gurmeet
Kanwal, Director CLAWS, Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (Retd),
Lt gen K S Jamwal (Retd), Lt Gen V G Patankar
(Rtetd), Lt Gen Sumer Singh, HAL’s Helicopter
Division Managing Director Soundra Rajan, Lt Gen
B S Pawar (Retd) and Lt Gen V K Kapoor (Retd).
Gen P K Bharali, Additional Director General of
the Army Aviation, briefed the participants on
the growth of the Corps.
It may be noted that from 1984 onwards, Army
Aviation has been in the forefront of operations
to control the icy peaks in the Siachen Glacier,
which is perhaps the ultimate frontier for any
soldier. Army Aviators routinely operate at 22,000
feet around the glacier, providing the proverbial
lifeline for Indian soldiers in the tough terrain
The Army Aviation Corps has taken part in a number
of UN missions, and several disaster relief operations
The Corps inducted the first HALmade Advanced
Light Helicopter Dhruv in 2001. Since then, this
fleet has grown rapidly and is already on the
path to becoming its mainstay for day and night
Army Aviation is also set to acquire the Mark
III Electronic Warfare (EW) and Mark IV armed
version of ALH in the coming few months.