Double Boost

The BSF air wing inducts two Mi-17 V5 medium lift helicopters

Dilip Kumar Mekala

In a move that will significantly enhance the strength of its air wing, Border Security Force (BSF) has inducted two of the most advanced medium lift helicopters, Mi-17 V5, on April 9. The helicopters will primarily be used in the internal security tasks in few areas of the Red Corridor and also in Jammu and Kashmir. Six more such helicopters in the same configuration will join the BSF air wing in two phases during the current financial year. The next batch of three helicopters are planned to join the force by May and the final three will arrive in September 2015.

MoS (Home) Kiren Rijiju and DG BSF D.K. Pathak with IG (Air) AVM Sagar Bharti (extreme left) and ADG Rajni Kant Misra (extreme right) at the induction ceremony

Speaking at the induction ceremony, the minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju said, “The government is committed towards strengthening the BSF.” Indicating that the helicopters will bolster air support missions for BSF troops, he added, “The choppers are armed with the latest in avionics and night flying capabilities, both of which were long-standing BSF requirement”. Director General, BSF, Devendra Kumar Pathak termed Mi-17V5 a “force multiplier” for the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs).

According to the statement given by the BSF, the eight aircrafts, once inducted, will operate from Raipur, Ranchi, Srinagar and Delhi. Currently, the BSF air wing operates a fleet of four fixed wing aircrafts (one Embraer, one Beechcraft SKA B-200, and two Avro aircrafts) and 13 helicopters (six Mi-17 1V, six ALH Dhruv, and one Cheetah helicopter).

Air Vice Marshal Sagar Bharti of the Indian Air Force (IAF) who is also the IG (air) with the BSF air wing, said, “The helicopter has Gen-3 night vision capabilities that will allow day and night operations in every possible terrain. It also has Bambi bucket which will allow the forces to participate in forest fire.” These aircrafts will also be used extensively in disaster relief operations. “The BSF air wing will do its job with utmost dedication,” he stated proudly.

The story of medium lift helicopters (MLH) with the BSF started with the induction of Mi-17 1V in 2003. These helicopters were procured under Jammu and Kashmir action plan. While this fleet was mainly used for air logistics and communication tasks earlier, in the last few years their employment and the scope of their utilisation has extended to include disaster relief, special heliborne operations (SHBO) for the National Security Guards (NSG), anti-naxal operations, counter insurgency operations, air-maintenance of remote border outposts, casualty evacuation and so on.

The BSF air wing officers said that they were very impressed by the versatility of the Mi-17 platform which has opened up new avenues for additional tasks like reconnaissance, security, urban policing, VIP movement etc. “There is an expanding operational requirement to augment the capacity of medium lift helicopters due to the dynamic nature of national security threats. The additional role and tasks demanded for expansion and modernisation of the existing medium lift helicopter fleet of the BSF air wing,” informed a statement from the BSF.

To meet the increased role and tasks that ministry of home affairs (MHA) has mandated on the BSF air wing, procurement of eight Mi 17 V5 helicopters was dovetailed with the demand of the IAF and Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and the procurement was centrally handled by the ministry of defence (MoD) with Rosoboronexport, Russia.

The coordination between the IAF and the BSF doesn’t end there. The air wing, which is a mix of both military registered and the civil-registered aircraft, are flown by both IAF and BSF pilots. According to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two forces, the military registered aircraft will be operationally maintained, flown, and supported by the IAF. Since the BSF air assets are significantly small compared to the IAF, it is a smart move to rely on the IAF’s expertise. The IAF officers are inducted laterally into the BSF to oversee operations of the air wing. This will also ensure coordination between the two forces. This could be a model for other CAPFs, which are planning to induct helicopters in their fold.

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