Despite strong resistance by the Air Force,the Defence Ministry has taken a decision that all future inductions of attack helicopters will take place in the Army,giving in to a long-term demand by the force. The Air Force will however continue to operate medium-lift helicopters that are used for transportation and supplying forward troops.
The decision,conveyed to the Army on Wednesday,was made after consulting National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon following stiff opposition by the IAF.
Ministry sources said the letter clarifies that an in principle decision has been taken that future armed helicopters will be vested with the Army. The short note,however,does not explain what will happen to the upcoming contract for 22 new attack helicopters for which Boeings Apache has been selected.
While the selection is being processed by the IAF,the note indicates that the new squadron will be inducted by the Army,in keeping with the new government policy. A final decision on the issue is yet to be taken but sources indicated that the Army is expected to have its way with the upcoming squadron likely to be inducted into the ground force.
The ministrys note,which was disclosed by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh,however kicked off a strong reaction from the Air Force. An IAF spokesperson went on record to say that the new squadron of Apache choppers would be inducted into the Air Force itself.
However,this claim has been contested by senior officials in the Defence Ministry and the Army. According to them,the new choppers will go to the Army. The IAF,they say,will be involved in the selection and procurement process.
The existing squadrons of Mi-35 attack helicopters will however continue to remain in the IAF till they are phased out. While the Army had also demanded that medium-lift choppers mainly used to supply forward troops should also be handed over,the ministry has decided against the move.
However,taking heed of the Armys woes that IAF cant meet operational requirement,the MoD has decided to review the command system to ensure prioritisation of tasks to meet operational needs.