HECTIC PREPARATIONS are underway at Air Force Station, Chandigarh, to prepare the infrastructure in order to house the first of the seven CH-47 (I) Chinook helicopters which will be stationed. The first four Chinook helicopters arrived in India at the Mundra port in Gujarat in semi-knocked down condition. These are expected to reach Chandigarh by the first week of March and an induction ceremony for the helicopters in fully flying condition is expected to take place at the end of March. India has ordered a total of 15 Chinook helicopters from the US.
Sources in the Indian Air Force (IAF) maintain that the repair works at the hangars which will house these strategic lift twin rotor helicopters have been underway for the past couple of months. “These repairs and refurbishments, which were necessary for the new helicopters, are almost complete and we expect the hangars to be ready by end of February,” a senior officer said.
Among the repair works that are being executed in the air force station, the new flooring of hangars has been done and an anti-static coating is also being done on the floor. The annexes of the hangar are also being re-floored and false ceiling work is being executed. Electricity fitments which meet the American standards, as they are different than those of India, are also being re-done, say sources.
Senior IAF officers from the Western Air Command have been keeping close tabs on the ongoing work. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman along with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, and other senior officers of the IAF, senior executives from Boeing and US diplomats are expected to preside over the induction ceremony in Chandigarh.
Named after American Indian tribe, Chinook, the helicopters will be stationed in Chandigarh Air Force Station as well as in Mohanbari in the North East. The IAF had started training pilots on the new helicopter since October 2018 at Delaware in the US. The powerful twin rotor helicopter will increase the strategic lift capabilities of the IAF which had suffered ever since the serviceability of the Russian MI-26 helicopters, which were also stationed in Chandigarh, got reduced over the years.
As per Boeing, the company which manufactures the helicopter, the Chinook is a multi-mission, heavy lift transport helicopter. Its primary mission is to move troops, artillery, ammunition, fuel, water, barrier materials, supplies and equipment on the battlefield. Its secondary missions include medical evacuation, disaster relief, search and rescue, aircraft recovery, firefighting, parachuted drops, heavy construction and civil development.
“Chinook helicopters were introduced in 1962 by Boeing as CH-47 and models A, B and C were deployed in Vietnam. As the product of a modernisation programme, which included refurbishing existing CDH-47s, the first CH-47Ds were delivered in 1982 and were produced till 1994. A central element in the gulf war, they continue to be the standard for the US Army in the global campaign against terrorism. Since its introduction, 1,179 Chinooks have been built,” the Boeing website on Chinook says.