Citing domestic duties, India withdraws choppers from UN Congo missionOctober 14th, 2011 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) India has withdrawn all its attack and transport helicopters from the United Nations mission in Congo this month, citing their requirement in domestic security roles.
“The last four of the Russian-origin Mi-35 attack helicopters — used for close air support during assault operations on ground targets — that were operating in Congo in aid of UN blue berets have returned to India and will soon join their duties in support of the army troops,” a defence ministry official told IANS.
Indian Air Force (IAF) had deployed eight Mi-35 and Mi-25 attack helicopters and another nine Mi-17 medium lift cargo helicopters in the UN peace enforcement mission in Congo or Monusco. The Mi-25s and Mi-17s were withdrawn earlier this year in a phased manner.
The cargo choppers have already been redeployed in India in traditional logistic duties in support of army troops in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states, and in domestic security roles in aid of state police and central paramilitary forces fighting the Maoists.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne had said recently that the air force will deploy two Mi-17s in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi in aid of paramilitary forces fighting the Maoists.
This deployment will be in addition to four of these choppers already operating in similar roles for the last couple of years in Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur and Jagdalpur.
India had in June this year turned down a UN request to continue its rotary wing gunships deployment in the troubled west African nation in view of the presidential elections slated for November.
The Indian decision had come as a surprise to the UN, as it had never rejected a request from the global body earlier.
The IAF attack and cargo helicopters were the lifeline of UN peace-enforcers in Congo, but the fleet had to be withdrawn, also due to the huge cost of logistics in maintaining the assets in the African nation.
The IAF had informed the defence ministry that it was forced to cannibalise parts out of other helicopters to maintain its Mi-35 and Mi-25 attack choppers in Congo in fighting-fit condition.
(N C Bipindra can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: african nation, air chief marshal, anil kumar, army troops, attack helicopters, blue berets, cargo helicopters, close air support, domestic security, global body, ground targets, indian air force, jagdalpur, jammu and kashmir, paramilitary forces, peace enforcement, raipur, russian origin, security roles, transport helicopters