With the Army looking at its biggest-ever addition of helicopters and new generation surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has listed aviation and air defence as “high priority” for modernisation.
He was speaking at the end of five-day biannual Army Commanders’ Conference in New Delhi last evening.
The Army requires 259 light utility helicopters to replace Cheetah/Chetak fleet of helicopters. The Cheetah/Chetak helicopters are based on the 1950s designed Alouette Aérospatiale 315B Lama of France. It also needs 114 light-combat helicopters. HAL has produced one such helicopter on which weapons are being tested. Production is expected to start this year.
The air-defence mechanism will have a three-pronged approach. The Army is in the process of inducting indigenously built Akash SAM that can hit the target at 25 km. It is also looking at Israeli “spyder” air defence missile system, which is militarily classified as “low-level, quick reaction missile” to neutralise hostile incoming targets up to 15 km away and at height between 20 and 9,000 m. The third are the air defence guns. Around 428 such pieces are needed to take on aerial targets in the immediate vicinity of 4 km. These will replace the Army’s obsolete air-defence assets dating back to the 1970s.
During deliberations, Army commanders discussed issues having HR policy ramifications and measures to enhance transparency and inclusiveness. The Army Chief also highlighted the need for a more participative form of policy formulation.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba also addressed the conference emphasising on evolving a joint operational philosophy.