The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to purchase new Cheetal helicopters for deployment at the Siachen Glacier in the eastern Karakoram Range of the Himalaya Mountains, India.
Unidentified IAF officials were quoted by Press Trust of India saying the service has already sent a request for proposal (RFP) to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the acquisition of 12 helicopters for conducting operations in high altitude areas in the country’s northern borders.
The new helicopters are being purchased in the wake of persistent delays to the procurement of new Light Utility Helicopters (LUHs), which are scheduled to replace the Air Force and Army’s existing Cheetah/Chetak helicopter fleet, the officials added.
The IAF currently operates squadrons of its Cheetah/Chetak helicopters to deliver close air support to the army troops in Leh and Thoise in Jammu and Kashmir, India.
Manufactured by HAL, the Cheetal is an upgraded version of the Cheetah helicopter equipped with more powerful Turbomeca TM 333-2M2 turboshaft engines.
Derived from Aerospatiale SA 315B Lama, the Cheetah is a lightweight high -performance helicopter designed primarily for conducting operations in hot and high conditions, and can also be configured for observation, surveillance, logistics support, earth resource survey and rescue missions.
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The HAL Chetak is a multi-role seven-seat helicopter employed for training, transport, casualty evacuation (CASEVAC), as well as communications and liaison operations.
The Indian Air Force currently operates 87 Chetak and 24 Cheetah helicopters.
A total of 197 LUHs are expected to be acquired by the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD), of which 133 will be delivered to the Army, while the remaining 64 would be used by the IAF.
Image: An Aerospatiale SA 315B Lama helicopter stationed at Yellowstone National Park in US. Photo: courtesy of Mark Wagner.