Employment Helicopter In The Indian Armed Forces Management Essay

Jointery encapsulates the ways and means by which military forces enhances joint operations, effectively synchronizing the activities of the sea, land and air, invariably as part of a multinational force, each to play to its particular strengths

Joint Doctrine Team, British Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC)

1. Higher Directives. The employment of military assets is based on a higher directive made by the government. The Union War Book is one such document which provides the guidelines in terms of the roles of each service. The overall responsibility for air defence of the country is vested with the IAF as per the Union War Book and applies clearly to the radar network, surface to air systems and fighter tasks thereof [] . The war book however does not elucidate the envisaged employability of the transport and helicopter fleet towards protecting the sovereignty of the nation. The employment of these assets has been included in the Air Force doctrine and their acquisition thereof is planned on this basis. The transport aircraft are being centrally controlled at the highest possible however the helicopter assets due to their versatility are being controlled at the command and tactical level. This type of control however often leads to a perception of mis/underutilization of these assets by the other services for whom they are frequently tasked. In addition a lack of broad guidelines on the employment of the helicopter assets available with all military and civil agencies has lead to piece meal procurement and ineffective usage especially during times of crisis like disaster relief.

2. Though the requirement of the IAF as an independent entity has been established in the scope, the role of its helicopter fleet and efficacy in supporting the surface forces as an integral but alien arm has to be studied before any judgment on its ownership can be passed. The army aviation is also actively employed in augmenting the IAF helicopters. In some cases the army aviation has been more effective than their IAF counterparts mostly due to availability and familiarity with the ground operations. Hence the efficacy of the IAF helicopters in support of the ground forces is often questioned. This has led to fierce fanaticism, percolating eventually to the lowest level, as a result of the instinct of guarding ones own turf kicking in [] . Unfortunately this has not benefitted the joint capacity building of the helicopter fleet of the Indian armed forces. Moreover, the helicopter assets have been distributed to cater for the specific service needs and are employed in their specific roles. The helicopter strength and roles in brief are discussed below for all the three services to .

Indian Air Force

The IAF has close to 340 helicopters of various origin and another 96 (59 M17&V5, 22 AH64D and 15 CH47F) to be procured from outside the country, in addition to the 62 (37 ALH Mk III/IV & 25 LCH) to be the produced indigenously [] . The older helicopters like the Mi-8 and Chetak are likely to be replaced by contemporary helicopters like the Eurocopter Fennec and Mi-17V5. The Mi-8 is also being replaced for its VVIP role by the Augusta Westland EH101.

These helicopters are being used in support of the surface forces in various roles. The IAF helicopters are being used to regularly in support of the army involved in fighting terrorists in the northern and naxals in the central region. Additionally the IAF assets are also being used to maintain their posts in the inhospitable terrain of the northern and eastern regions. These helicopters carry out peace time and support operations like Casualty Evacuation, Search and Rescue, Route Transport Role, etc, and can also be employed in offensive or war time roles which include Special Heli Borne Operations (SHBO), Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) and Battlefield Air Strikes (BAS) missions.

Indian Army’s Aviation Corp. In 1984, the Indian Army’s Northern Command inducted the HAL Cheetah into the Siachen Glacier. The daredevil pilots were put to the ultimate test professionally and also in terms of human endurance. In 1986, the “Air Observation Post” units were transferred from the Air Force to the Army to form the Army Aviation branch [] . Thereafter the army aviation assets have seen extensive deployment in mountainous and high altitude terrain for over the crest line observation for reconnaissance by field commanders, direction of artillery fire and speedy move of commanders to the forward posts which are difficult to access, make availability of helicopters a necessity. Speedy casualty evacuation from inaccessible areas, both in war and peace conditions, needed rotary wing effort close by and on call. Hence, a need was felt for a dedicated aviation effort for every Infantry/Mountain Division [] . The corp operates with approximately 158 helciopters which include the Advance Light Helicopter (ALH) , Chetak and Cheetah Helicopter [] . The Army now wants one attack helicopter squadron (10-12 choppers) for its three “strike” formations – 1 Corps (Mathura), 2 Corps (Ambala) and 21 Corps ( Bhopal) — in keeping with their primary offensive role. Moreover, it has plans to induct another 114 ‘Rudra’ light combat helicopters for the 10 ‘pivot’ corps [] . The Army is keen to expand its AAC and is inducting pilots and engineers on a permanent basis into this arm.

Indian Navy Air Arm. The Indian Naval Air Arm, formulated in 1953, is a branch of Indian Navy which is tasked to provide an aircraft carrier based strike capability, fleet air defence, maritime reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare. IT operates close to 108 helciopters like the Sea King, Ka-28/31, ALH, Chetak amongst others [] . These helicopters are stationed in the various Naval Air Bases and positioned on the ships as per requirements. However, not all types of ships in the Indian Navy can operate with these helicopters. While the larger ships like the fleet tankers, destroyers and the frigates are capable of operating all the IN helicopters, the smaller ships like the corvettes and the patrol vessels are limited to operating with the light helicopters like the Chetak or the ALH. On the other hand the Amphibious Warfare Vessels like INS Jalashwa and the Aircraft carriers are capable of operating with heavier helicopters than those currently with the Indian Navy [] . The Indian Navy also intents to augment its helicopter fleet by bidding for the highly potent NH-90 helicopter which has a multi role and multi mission capability.

4. It is apparent that the air arm of the Army and the Navy are being augmented to cater for service specific requirements. However, this approach has lead to piece meal procurements which lacks the essence of jointry in it. Hence, the hurdles to achieving a truly joint capability will have to be overcome when set against the inevitable financial and resource constraint and the inertia inherent in our single service ethos and training [] .



‘Organize as we intend to operate and train as we intend to fight’

– RAF Warfare Centre

1. Joint training of personnel is the most important tool to ensure synergy in functionality and process. Since independence the three services have grown and developed their training infrastructure as per their perceived operational and training requirements. This has in some cases been created at great cost even though the equipment is similar [] . The “Kargil Committee Report” thus recommended that a study be ordered to look at the optimization of training resources among the three services. As per the committee, a feasibility study of carrying out joint training in those areas common to all three services should have been worked out. However, the committee restricted its recommendations catering for the sensitivities of three services. Hence their assessment was restricted to institutionalized training and ignored the operational joint training aspects. Hence, though the Chetak is the common basic helicopter training aircraft for all three services, they have established different training centers for the basic training of their aircrew. The pros and cons of this kind of set up are discussed below:


(i) Service Specific Training and Assessment . Each service has specific and unique requirements from its pilots which guides its training Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s). The navy would expect the pilot to be more comfortable with instrument flying and use of the Radio Altimeter (RADALT) for assessing perspective, while the IAF instructor in the absence of an altimeter, endeavors to inculcate the ‘visual’ flying habits in his trainees. Hence, the assessment criteria would naturally be varied for all the three services. A service specific training centre would therefore be the natural choice, even though the helicopter training aspects between the army and air force could make combined training academy a feasible option, the only difference being that the Army also trains on the Cheetah helicopter.

(ii) Maintenance and Administration. A joint training centre of this nature and size would entail hectic maintenance and administrative activities. With the absence of a joint logistics or training command these aspects are likely to suffer as the distribution of duties to the three services would a moot point due to lack of jurisdiction of a service specific command on the other services. The OEM support however, would be more forthcoming as the Chetak aircraft is overhauled for all the three services by the Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL)

(iii) Irrelevance of Coordination. Since there is no joint training it is obvious that no coordination required between the officer training academies of the three services. Since the existing system of individual training commands is not conducive for joint training, this type of set up is preferred.

Cons. The adverse effects of service specific training is more evident in the later years of service of an individual as an out come of the aspects discussed below.

Lack of Exposure. The pilots though flying the same machine have limited knowledge about the additional roles in which the same helicopter is being employed. This compartmentalization in the formulative years leads to limited understanding of the complete capability of the aircraft. An IAF pilot is not exposed to the challenges of deck landing which could greatly improve his flying skills, the same way a naval pilot would benefit by landing in high altitude helipads.

Restrictions on Op Roles. As an outcome of the lack of exposure and limited knowledge of the helicopter restricts the imagination of the pilots especially as staff appointment which eventually leads to restriction on the roles the aircraft is perceived to be capable of. The restriction on single pilot operations in the (ALH) despite its capability is one such example.

Turf Issues. Since the pilots of the three services flying the same helicopter have neither undergone the same initial level nor advanced operational training they carry misplaced perception an ideas of the others capability. This perception if carried forward into the senior levels leads to turf wars, which has adverse ramifications on the joint capability of the services.

2. Both the army and the naval pilots are volunteers who leave their main steam duties for aviation. The army has recently started inducting officers directly into the AAC due to the increased demand for helicopters. The officers who were sidelined while being the aviation cadre would now are able to progress in their career even as a pilot. The mainstream officers of both the services at times hold prejudices against the aviation branch due to lack of understanding of their functioning. These prejudices do exist even within the IAF nad exhibits itself branch specific and fleet wise. Since the AAC only has helicopters their pilots are trained directly on the Chetak at the Basic Flying Training School (BFTS) Allahabad, Combat Army Aviation Training School (CATS), Nashik and Rotary Wing Academy (RWA), Bangalore. The first being run by the aIAF, the second by the Army and the RWA is a civil flying school run by HAL. The Navy and the Air Force trainees are trificated into the fighter, transport and helicopter stream after the first semester of flying training on the basic trainer. While the naval transport and fighter trainees get trained by the air force, the helicopter pilots proceed along with the Coast Guard trainees, for a six months training to their Helicopter Training School (HTS) at INS Rajali, Arakkonam. The helicopter pilots of IAF undergo stage I training in HTS, Hakimpet, followed by stage II training either at Yelahanka on the Mi- 8 or in HTS itself. Stage III training is carried out at the respective units subsequently, though eventually it will be conducted in a Mi-17V5 training squadron being set up at Air Force Station, Sarsawa.

It is evident therefore that the IAF has dedicated assets and manpower to ensure effective and efficient basic and operational training of its helicopter pilots. This would ensure that a pilot is battle ready when he reaches an operational squadron and the limited effort is spent towards his conversion. However, despite all this effort the joint aspect of operational training is still found wanting. The advantages of initial joint training has been expressed by General Henry Viccellio, US Air Froce, ‘The advantage of inter services initial skill training include lowering costs as redundancies are reduced, downsizing the overall infrastructure, fostering team work and nurturing jointness by exposing students to interservice dialogue early in their careers [] ‘.



‘At higher levels of war, success is mostly a function of planning and apportioning forces and resources to missions’

-Gen Robert .W. RisCassi US Army

The Apache AH-64D and Chinook CH-47F helicopters have been selected through a competitive bidding process as the future attack and heavy lift helicopter respectively to be procured by the IAF. These helicopters have been used extensively during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. It is pertinent to note that these machines have been frequently upgraded since their initial induction to incorporate the latest technological advancement in them. To be able to analyse the effect that these machines would have on the future integrated battle environment we need to know its capabilities in comparison to the such type of helicopters already existing with the IAF. A table comparing the performance data of the Apache with the Mi-35 NPS and the Chinook with the Mi-26T is placed below to provide an insight into their capabilities. The Chinook is a 25 Ton class tandem rotor helicopter and cannot be compared with any other production helicopter as it is the only one of its weight class. However, comparison based on performance can be made to some extent with the 34 ton class CH-53E super Stallion and the 55 ton class Mi-26T, as these fall under the category of Heavy Lift Helicopters (HLH). HLH can be considered as those helicopters capable of lifting more than 10 tons. Though there are other helicopters like the Pave Low and Sea Stallion (both CH-53 variants) which are of 20 ton class, they cannot be considered as heavy lift due to their useful load limit of only 3-5 tons like IAF’s Mi-8/17/17IV/V5. The Apache is a state of the art helicopter with the latest avionics and weapon systems incorporated in it. Though it cannot be compared to the aging Mi-35 Gunship, it is important to assess the quantum jump in combat potential that will be accrued with the induction of the Apache helicopter. These comparisons are generic to the type of helicopter and there would be visible differences between the variants mainly in avionics and weapon systems.

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Table 1. Comparison Between Present and Future Heavy Lift and Attack Helicopters of the IAF.

Chinook [] 

Mi-26T [] 

Apache [] 

Mi-35NPS* [] 

Numbers built – 1,200 (Approx)

Military Operators – 21

Cost – Approx US $ 40 Million

Crew: 3 (pilot, copilot, flight engineer)


33-55 troops or

24 litters and 3 attendants

28,000 lb (12,700 kg) cargo

Length: 30.1 m

Rotor diameter: 18.3 m

Height:  5.7 m

Disc area:  260 m2

Empty weight: 23,400 lb (10,185 kg)

Max. takeoff weight: 50,000 lb (22,680 kg)

Powerplant: 2X3,631 kW

Maximum speed:  315  km/h

Cruise speed:  240 km/h

Range:  741 km (extendable to 1400km with Auxiliary tanks)

Service ceiling: 18,500 ft (5,640 m)

Disc loading:  9.5 lb/ft2  (47 kg/m2)

Numbers built – 320 (Approx)

Military Operators – 13

Cost – Approx US $ 44 Million (T2 Variant)

Crew: Five- 2 pilots, 1 navigator, 1 flight engineer, 1 flight technician (Mi-26T2 also requires 3 crew)


90 troops or 60 stretchers

20,000 kg cargo (44,090 lb)

Length: 40.025 m

Rotor diameter: 32.00m

Height: 8.145 m

Disc area: 804.25 m2 

Empty weight: 28,200 kg (62,170 lb)

Max. takeoff weight: 56,000 kg (123,450 lb)

Powerplant: 2X8,500kW

Maximum speed: 295 km/h

Cruise speed: 255 km/h

Range: 1,920 km (with auxiliary tanks)

Service ceiling: 4,600 m (15,100 ft)

Disc loading: 14.5 lb/ft2

(71.7 kg/m²) 

Numbers built – 1,200 (Approx)

Military Operators – 12

Cost – Approx US $ 20 Million

Crew: 2 (pilot, and co-pilot/gunner)

Length:  17.73 m

Rotor diameter: 14.63 m

Height: 12.7 ft (3.87 m)

Disc area: 168.11 m²

Empty weight: 11,387 lb (5,165 kg)

Max. takeoff weight: 23,000 lb (10,433 kg)

Powerplant: 2X1,490 kW

Maximum speed: 293 km/h

Cruise speed: 265 km/h

Range:  476 km

Service ceiling: 21,000 ft (6,400 m)

Disc loading: 9.80 lb/ft² (47.9 kg/m²)

Numbers built – 2,300 Mi-24 (Approx)

Military Operators – 50

Cost – Approx US $ 20 Million

Crew: 2-3: pilot, weapons system officer and technician (optional)


8 troops or 4 stretchers

Length: 17.5 m

Rotor diameter: 17.3 m

Height: 6.5 m (21 ft 3 in)

Disc area: 235 m² Empty weight: 8,500 kg (18,740 lb)

Max. takeoff weight: 12,000 kg (26,500 lb)

Powerplant: 2X1,600kW

Maximum speed: 335 km/h

Cruise Speed: 270 km/h

Range: 450 km

Service ceiling: 4,500 m (14,750 ft)

Disc loading: 10.4 lb/ft² (51 kg/m²)

* Specs for Mi-24 of which Mi-35 is a variant with an add on Night Packaging System (NPS)

Table 2. Comparison Between Apache and Mi-35 NPS Armament.


Mi-35 NPS


Guns: 1Ã- 30 mm (1.18  in) M230 Chain Gun with 1,200 rounds as part of the Area Weapon Subsystem

Hardpoints: Four pylon stations on the stub wings. Longbows also have a station on each wingtip for an AIM-92 ATAS twin missile pack.

Rockets: Hydra 70 70 mm, and CRV7 70 mm air-to-ground rockets

Missiles: Typically AGM-114 Hellfire  variants; AIM-92 Stinger may also be carried.


Lockheed Martin / Northrop Grumman AN/APG-78 Longbow fire-control radar


Guns 1 x 12.7 mm Yakushev-Borzov Yak-B Gatling gun on most variants. Maximum of 1,470 rounds of ammunition.

Hardpoints: Four pylon stations on the stub wings. Wing-tip pylons can only carry the 9K114 Shturm complex. UPK-23-250 gunpod carrying the GSh-23L can be carried here.

Rockets: B-8V20 a lightweight long tubed helicopter version of the S-8 rocket launcher

and S-24 240 mm rocket

Missiles: 9K114 Shturm in pairs on the outer and wingtip pylons


Radio command link for the Shturm missile

Heavy Lift Helicopter Comparisons

The table provides a statistical input on the capabilities of the Chinook in comparison to the Mi-26 wherein its lack in its lift and range capability. However, certain qualitative aspects of flying which are often evaluated by teat pilots world over called Handling Quality Requirements (HQRs), clearly define the limitation of every machine in carrying out a particular task. The Chinook is probably the only helicopter of its class to be able to carryout the ‘pinnacle drop’ of troops and cargo. This is a maneuver wherein the rear wheels of the helicopter are in contact with the ground while the front wheels are in air. It is generally carried out when there is insufficient landing space for the helicopter. The Chinook also has the ‘tandem load’ carrying capacity wherein a heavy load can be picked up as under slung cargo by two Chinooks simultaneously. The Chinook also has the unique triple hook feature enabling it to drop three different load carried underslung to three different locations without landing. Though the Chinook can at best carry only half the weight carried by the Mi-26, it can ensure that this load can be dropped at the most inhospitable terrains without requiring any additional infrastructure. This is why the Chinook is capable of carrying out SHBO operations like Small Team Insertion and Extraction (STIE) and halocasting unlike the Mi-26.

3. Due to its limited disc loading, the downwash of the Chinook is minimal, giving it the capability to operate from Forward Area Refueling and Rearming Points (FARRPs) in the deserts and from Indian Navy ships like INS Jalashwa. These helicopters are also capable of extracting Special Forces in their rubberized boats from a water body, a maneuver not possible on other helicopters. The tolerance to cross winds due to its tandem rotors provides it immense maneuverability at low speeds and high density altitudes. The Chinook also carries the similar cargo load as the Mi-26 at altitudes in excess of 3 km. With this performance and the ‘pinnacle drop’ capability this helicopter has many promising roles in the mountains in support of the army. The Chinook is a unique helicopter with very well developed Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFEX) which makes it very comfortable to handle. Hence the Chinook helicopter can be exploited in more ways than the Mi-26 in varied terrain of the Indian sub continent and along with the Indian Navy ships. The CH-47G version of the Chinook is capable of carrying out Air to Air refueling from a C-130 tanker, however, neither of these have been contracted by the IAF. The ability to extend its ranges with air to air refueling will provide an expeditionary potential to our heli-lift capability and may be considered if the political will and sagacity along with a change in mindset across the national security landscape occurs [] . The ranges can currently be extended using the Extended Range Fuel Tanks (ERFS) internally. The Chinook can also be air transported on the C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft, soon to be inducted into the IAF, giving the flexibility to deploy these aircraft in far of regions in a short notice.

Attack Helicopter Comparison

4. The Mi-35 was first inducted into active service in the year 1972 as the Mi-24 while the Apache saw active service in 1983as AH-64A. The difference in vintage is evident in the various systems and technological concepts which have been introduced in the Apache. Though the Mi-35 has been upgraded with the Night Package System (NPS) its performance and capability do not match that of the AH-64D. The AH-64D Longbow Apache is a remanufactured and upgraded version of the AH-64A Apache attack helicopter. The primary modifications to the Apache are the addition of a millimeter-wave Fire Control Radar (FCR) target acquisition system, the fire-and-forget Longbow Hellfire air-to-ground missile, updated T700-GE-701C engines, and a fully-integrated cockpit. In addition, the aircraft receives improved survivability, communications, and navigation capabilities. Three Apache helicopters can be transported at any given time in one C-17 Globemaster. The aircraft is also capable of being transported and hangar stored below decks in the landing platform helicopter (LPH) type carrier, Fast SeaLift ships, Roll-on/Roll-off dry cargo ships which provides it the marine capability in comparison to the Mi-35. The Apache with a service ceiling of 6.4 km promises to deliver even in the high altitude trains in the North and the North East sectors.

5. The Apache features a Target Acquisition Designation Sight (TADS) and a Pilot Night Vision Sensor (PNVS) which enables the crew to navigate and conduct precision attacks in day, night and adverse weather conditions. The Apache can carry up to 16 Hellfire laser designated missiles. With a range of over 8000 meters, the Hellfire is used primarily for the destruction of tanks, armored vehicles and other hard material targets like Radars. The AN/APG-78 FCR is a multi-mode Millimeter Wave (MMW) sensor integrated on the Apache Longbow with the antenna and transmitter located above the aircraft main rotor head. It enhances Longbow system capabilities by providing rapid automatic detection, classification, and prioritization of multiple ground and air targets. The radar provides this capability in adverse weather and under battlefield obscurants [] . This system gives the ‘fire and forget’ capability to the helicopter unlike the Mi-35 wherein the target has to be contacted till the terminal stages of the missile. The ranges of the Apache can be improved using the ERFS externally which is another feature not available in the Mi-35. Ferry ranges upto 1900km can be achieved with this system. The apache 64D longbow is considered as one of the most potent attack helicopters in the world today. Its stand off capability along with its enhanced survivability features and rate of accurate fire would enable it to be used in multiple terrain and swing role missions with relative ease. These machines can also be upgraded to control Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platforms using the onboard communication system and is being tested and developed in the US.

Theatre Battles of the Future

4. It is important for us to understand the nature of future wars so as be prepared to fight from a position of advantage. It is emphasized in all military forums that joint operations are the not an algebraic sum of all the capabilities of different components of military power but a means to achieve exponential growth in combat power. However, each kind of war requires a different treatment which might require a specialized training. There are various factors like International Relations, Economic factors and Human Resources which play an important role in the outcome of any situation [] . The military must now be ready to project the required level of deterrence or force in required to achieve the ultimate objective set by the political masters in an theatre of battle. There are also military imperatives which that define the limitations in war like Nuclear Weapons and other military factors like political, economical and technological constraints [] . Hence theatre battles of the future are going to be governed by various factors based on the lessons drawn from wars in the past five decades and these are discussed below and all these point towards an integrated environment.

Nature of Warfare. The Arab-Israeli wars of 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982 were limited highly intense and conventional. It clearly came out form these conflicts that lack of cohesion and synergy would eventually lead to ineffective and sometimes negative utilization of assets towards progress of operation. This was evident in the number of aircraft lost to own fire by the Egyptians in 1973. This was also experienced in the Vietnam War wherein the problems of each service running its own air war in its theatre became evident when the control of the US air effort was disastrously fragmented [] . The United States made some corrections in the first Gulf War but still lost two attack helicopters due to own fighter aircraft fire. Subsequently, it has laid great emphasis on joint operations and training for any spectrum of war or conflict. Today modern warfare has been characterized by joint expeditionary operations of one or more nations [] , and if India intends to protect its strategic interests in other countries it requires acquiring such capabilities of its armed forces. Both the Chinook and the Apache have the capability to be used in an expeditionary environment as proved in past conflicts world over.

Technological Changes. Though the Indian armed forces are planning towards being a Capacity based force over a threat based one, it is but impossible to achieve this status without the ability to handle the available technology to suit ones requirement. This is the only economical option for any Indian armed forces for only in crisis do ‘guns tend to outrank fat purses’ [] and the India political class does not perceive any crisis. The need for integration of latest technology in all three arms is felt to obviate the projection of contradictory requirements by the three services in their preparation and conduct of modern wars [] . This integration needs to be encouraged at the tactical level by conducting regular joint training programs like in the HLH and Attack helicopter. This is specially applicable in the case of new helicopters being procured for the IAF, wherein pilots of all three forces must be able to improvise its utilization so as to ensure its optimum utilization. Such a program is being under taken in the form of the Joint Transport Rotorcraft (JTR) program which has been defined as an epitome of Revolutionary in Military Affairs (RMA) defined by American defence analyst Paul Herman has defined as ‘ [which]….occurs when merging technology is applied to modern military systems, whose uses are optimized via custom tailored operational concepts and force structures, resulting in vast increases in military effectiveness’ [] . Hence an integrated force structure would be more economically viable option.

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Doctrine and Operational Art. This aspect is linked to the technological aspect as operational art would greatly influence the ability to exploit technology to the fullest for ones benefit. Technology like a Data linking would also make it possible for various elements of the three services to operate coherently while providing us platforms which could be used in any environment. A joint doctrine is therefore required as it provides the guidelines based on which any assets like the HLH and Attack helicopters can be effectively utilized for all three services.

Deterrence. Though no country today wants to get into a war willingly, it is clear that wars will find a way into the 21st century. Two ways to prevent war is dissuasion or deterrence. However, dissuasion indicates a sign of subversiveness and may not be taken kindly by the opponent; hence deterrence has become the lynchpin of most armed strategies. However, understanding the threat and improving assets is a challenge in itself and may prove to be economically unviable. The armed forces would require projecting a hostile posture to provide deterrence by denial or punishment which is likely to erode in time and circumstances. The personnel would have to be trained jointly to cater for a changing scenario in any kind of theatre so as to be able to effectively use the same technology so as to generate favorable asymmetry with the adversary. For example if the Chinook is required to be operated from a ship we need to have pilots who have been trained to carry out deck landing on the aircraft ,and not a new set of aircraft in itself. This way technology is big used differently to cater for a new requirement instead of procuring or subscribing for a newer technology. This too pays the way for a integrated battlefield environment.

History and Lessons on Employability of Apache and Chinook Helicopters

5. Having seen the capability of the Apache and Chinook helicopters along with the nature of future wars we can with some degree of confidence predict the effect these machines would have in the prosecution of future integrated battles. An analysis of the past utilization of these assets in the past conflicts would also highlight the requirement to make changes in our joint doctrine and operational training philosophy. Two major deductions can be made from the conventional conflicts which have taken place in the Indian subcontinent, Firstly that border wars are likely to continue with Pakistan and China and secondly surface forces supported by tactical air power will play a predominant part in persecuting these conflicts and gaining military advantage [] . The Apache and Chinook helicopters hence are likely to be employed to destroy targets by direct fire or by deployment of Special Forces. The projection of these assets from land and sea bases has been discussed below to draw paprallels to their envisaged employability by the Indian armed forces.

Air Land Battles

6. Apache. This helicopter has been extensively used since it induction in the invasion of Panama, both the Gulf wars, Bosnia and Kosovo conflict and in Afghanistan. In Iraq and Afghanistan, close-air support was employed heavily, with embattled U.S. and coalition ground forces calling in help from a wide array of aircraft, including Air Force fighters and bombers, and sea-based Navy and Marine jets and helicopters. Procedures, however, varied from service to service, leading to unnecessary confusion and increased risk of fratricide on the battlefield. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. aircraft have attacked U.S. and coalition ground troops by mistake [] . This is emphasized on the requirement for joint training which was found lacking amongst the coalition forces. These helicopters have also been used by other nations like Israel which has carried out surgical strikes, by day and night, on the Hezbollah and Hamas outfits. It is also used to patrol the strikes over Gaza by the Israeli Air Force [] . Thus the capability of these helicopters to be used for roles beyond CAS was established. The Apache helicopter of the US Army was effectively employed in the first Gulf war to knock our Iraqi radars. This enabled the coalition fixed wing fighter aircraft to launch their strikes unhindered. The efficacy of the Apache to carry out SEAD missions was thus proved beyond doubt. During the CAS missions when the ‘fog of war’ made it impossible for the Apache helicopters to operate in support of the armored columns an audacious plan to carry out deep strike interdiction missions was undertaken. The success of the mission further reiterated the capability of the Apache to take on Battlefield Air Interdiction missions.

7. Chinook. The Chinook helcopter has seen operations since its induction in many conflicts including Vietnam, Iran, Falklands amongst others. The most spectacular mission in Vietnam for the Chinook was the placing of artillery batteries in perilous mountain positions inaccessible by any other means, and then keeping them resupplied with large quantities of ammunition. The Chinook soon proved to be such an invaluable aircraft for artillery movement and heavy logistics that it was seldom used as an assault troop carrier. Perhaps the most cost effective use of the Chinook was the recovery of other downed aircraft. The Chinook has seen wide use in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. The Chinook has been used in air assault missions, inserting troops into fire bases and later bringing food, water, and ammunition. It is also the Cas Evac aircraft of choice in the British Armed Forces. In today’s usage it is typically escorted by attack helicopters such as theAH-64 Apache for protection. Its tandem rotor design and lift capacity have been found to be particularly useful in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan where high altitudes and temperatures limit the use of the other helicopters of its class [] . The US Marine Corps envisages a requirement of adequate combat power buildup deep inland to be able to strike directly at tactical targets from positions of advantage on a distributed battlespace. These relatively light armored forces must survive in remote places if unexpectedly vastly outnumbered and distant from viable reinforcements [] . This capability can be provided by the Chinook helicopters due to their versatility and absolute ubiquity.

The Future Shape of the Navy: Platforms and Systems

8. Air assets on board a ship comprise both fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Rotary wing aircraft within their limited Radius of Action are in a position to provide the necessary support to the Navy. The Indian Navy however, seldom deems it necessary to employ IAF helicopter aboard their ships. However, world over there a change in thought process to equip the marine forces to project itself as an expeditionary force, for which they would have to equip their fleet with Attack and Heavy Lift helicopters. The IN aspiresto be a blue water navy with expeditionary capabilites. As per a study carried out in the United Kingdom, the expeditionary strategy requires three main elements-carriers, amphibious ships, and nuclear submarines-plus other enabling forces and systems.The teeth of the carriers in both battle space dominance and power projection will be the air groups, and the rotary-wing element. The third part of the power-projection troika is the landing and support of ground forces. This is centered on, but is more than, conventional amphibious operations [] .

9. Attack helicopters. The LPH, HMS Ocean,was to provide a helicopter platform both for troop carrying and attack helicopters as well as transporting vehicles and ammunition. This study enables the UK to project its military prowess in the Libyan crises in 2012 wherein the Apache helicopters were effectively used in a strike role form the HMS Ocean LHP. The French too employed their Gazelle helicopters to strike strategic targets in Libya from their Tonnere [] . This capability needs to be studied for the IN as well. Of all entry routes into theatre, the primary route for heavy forces to be projected ashore is from the sea. The operational level of an expeditionary capability suggests that this should be a heavy brigade that may be put ashore by conventional or unconventional landing craft or by helicopters from amphibious ships Landing Platform Helicopter Docks (LPD/LPH) or landing ships logistic (LSL) away from enemy forces and at a place and time of the command’s choosing. Armour could be landed across the shore-line from the specialist amphibious ships whilst attack helicopters would operate initially from the LPHs. Even the Australian Defence Forces has opted for two LHDs through which allow it to embark a force of 1800 troops while providing the air cover using the Tiger Armed reconnaissance helicopter and use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) [] .

Heavy Lift Helicopters

10. A study to improve the expeditionary force of the British navy brought out the requirement of Heavy lift helicopters in Sea Basing operations. The study commented that ‘you need more assets to sustain a force for an extended period further from the home base’. As the name Sea Basing concepts depends on a joint force structure to project one’s military might from sea based assets for a prolonged period requiring the force to self sustain till a land base has been established in the area of interest. It can be diagrammatically depicted in the figure below.

*CONUS- Continental US Fig 1 Sea Basing Concept

According to a US study sea basing is now viewed as an enabler of joint forces operations [] . The CH-46 is used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) to provide all-weather, day-or-night assault transport of combat troops, supplies and equipment. Additional tasks include combat support, search and rescue (SAR), support for forward refueling and rearming points, CASEVAC and Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) [] . The study also examined the feasibility of employing the Chinook in these role onboard ships. Hence the Chinook could be used as a airborne logistics platform to maintain the naval ships in the seas up to sea state 4. This force multiplier could assists in establishing sea control, sea denial, land attack and Special Forces operations.



‘ Centralisation has the advantage that scarce assets may be focused at the decisive point rather than fritted away in penny packets, while decentralization has the advantage that it is easier for the assets to respond quickly to threats and opportunities at the local level’

– Philip Sabin

British Military Historian

Establishment of ‘Mini’ Airforces

1. A survey was conducted at the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) to assess the lacunae in the present system of operating medium to heavy lift and attack helicopters under the control of IAF. The questionnaire tried to identify clear shortcomings issues related to issue, however the results revealed none. It was therefore evident that jointmanship or lack of it thereof was an outcome of perceived notions which are an outcome of experiences and influenced by others thoughts. It was evident each service failed to understand the operations and requirement of the other and hence found each others demands unreasonable at times. Some aspects were brought to light and can be generalized for each of the services.

(a) The majority of the Army officers thought that the IAF was doing its part to support ground operations using its helicopters but still insisted on having control of the Attack helicopters.

(b) The Navy seemed impervious to the capability of IAF helicopters and were content on being self sufficient with their own assets.

(c) The majority of the Air Force officers felt that the Army aviation fell short to meet their expectations in terms of operating procedures and safety standards.

Despite the differences most of the respondents agreed that the Indian armed forces lacked jointmanship and synergy both in planning and execution of operations. This was largely due to the lack of empathy for each other services and absence of an effective joint structure. Hence the response to have the Attack and Heavy lift helicopter under an integrated command was no well received. The survey revealed the a radical changes to integrating the three services is a must to enable the personnel to support and have confidence in joint training, planning and operations.

2. In spite of all the hedging between the services it is certain that future wars would be integrated to cater for economy of effort which continuing to have offensive action. The question of forming ‘mini’ air forces with the army and the navy has to be deliberated to since they require these assets to cater for their own service specific and specialized needs. However this kind of an argument today would not hold water for the reasons discussed below.

Multirole Capability. Helicopters due to their ubiquity and versetality have been used in combat support and counter surface roles. With technology these helicopters have been to operate in a ‘swing role’ in the same sortie, like carrying out Special Heli-Borne Operations (SHBO) followed by a Battlefield Air Strike (BAS) mission. The Chinook due to its tandem rotors provides exceptional handling qualities that enable it to operate in climatic, altitude and crosswind conditions that prevent other helicopters from flying [] . Thus this helicopter is capable of operating from FAARP’s and Ship Decks and can thus be used in support of land and marine forces. The Apache helicopters were instrumental in opening the Radar corridor by carrying out the initial air strike on the Iraqi early warning and control radars using the Hellfire laser guided missiles [] . These Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) operations were carried out by US Army helicopters in support of their air force campaign and are an envisaged role of Indian Attack Helicopter as well. Though Air Defence of a theatre is primarily the responsibility of the IAF, it is not unjustified for the Attack helicopters to be with the AAC so as to assist the Army Air Defence (AAD). In addition, the Indian attack helicopters are also used as escorts in SHBO missions to IAF’s Medium lift helicopters like the Mi-17. Hence placing these helicopters with the AAC to cater for the specific requirement of the Army would lead to underutilization of these assets.

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Financial Implications. ‘Bang for the Buck’ is the mantra for defense procurements world over. While no government would admit it, budgetary constraints will always be a limiting factor and affordability must now become an important element of defense planning [] . Most Defence forces are considering downsizing their personnel and equipment to reduce defence expenditure. The former US president has questioned the need for maintaining four separate Air Forces for the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force and noted that the Navy and Air Force had fighter aircraft and tactical missiles that were similar but had been developed separately. Status quo was maintained on the insistence of General Colin Powell who endorsed their unique but complimentary role [] . However, in this case the US Army and US Marines holding 3000 and 700 [] helicopters respectively could not be wished away without adequate time and planning. The Indian scenario is very different as our defense budget and absence of political intention to develop the expeditionary capability our armed forces would not allow such potent service specific air forces to develop. The only way out is indigenization wherein due to the influence of the welfare oriented aviation Public Sector Undertaking’s (PSU’s) like the HAL, National Aeronautical Laboratory (NAL) etc the government may provide individual services the luxury of buying adequate number of indigenously built aerial platforms. However, these PSU’s have often failed to deliver quality products in time and many of their self initiated projects have seen inordinate delays which have left the armed forces in a lurch [] . Hence in the future the Apache helicopters would be limited in numbers (close to 35) in comparison to HAL’s 114 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) with the Army and 25 with the IAF. The LCH with a weight class of 5.5 tons would have limited capability in comparison to the Apache. This would necessitate the Apache helicopters to be utilized in roles wherein the LCH cannot deliver requiring them to be centrally controlled to avoid ‘piece meal’ employment.

Infrastructure. The required infrastructure for these new inductions encompassing administration, maintenance and logistics is currently available in the IAF. Since aviation in the Army and Navy is a secondary activity rightly so The Army and the Navy are yet to develop there aviation infrastructure since this is understandably and rightfully a secondary activity for them. Hence they are not in a position to handle the induction and operationalisation of these machines.

Doctrine. The reason for the IAF to be most ready to induct these other than its infrastructure is the sound doctrine that has been formulated to exploit the aviation assets to the fullest. This does not imply that the other services are incapable of handling these helicopters but does state that they are not ready as yet. The is AAC is justified in having control of these assets as their pilots are volunteers from the surface arm who have served long enough to understand the nuances and requirements of surface operations. However, this logic is being nullified with the direct induction of officers into this arm immediately on commissioning.

Training Exercises. Training exercises need to be conducted at regular intervals to draw important doctrinal and tactical lessons. However, for this it is important that the tactical training is carried out in a realistic environment especially with the aerial assets especially the strike aircraft of the IAF. With the existing lack of synergy amongst the three services it is unlikely that IAF strike aircraft would be regularly spared to enhance the training experience of Army Attack helicopter pilots. However, this hurdle can be crossed with better coordination and more importantly change in attitude of the two services in this issue.

Command and Control. The potency and capability of these helicopters have been discussed. It is thus imperative that these assets are controlled at the highest level and distributed in ‘penny packets’ leading to their ‘piece meal’ employment. Just like the transport aircraft which are controlled at the Air Headquarters, the Attack and Heavy lift helicopters could be controlled by HQ IDS.

3. The IAF would be using these platforms in support of the surface forces, so how are they justified in controlling these assets? These counter arguments to the formation of these ‘mini’ air forces particularly related to the expansion of the AAC would continue. The Army views its AAC as an extension of its land operations. The desire to hold Attack Helicopters under its command has been ongoing since these were acquired. The IAF has argues that these helicopters would be required to undertake SEAD, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) and escorts missions which are in their domain and are undertaken with other IAF aircraft. In addition the IAF helicopter pilots who are initially trained with the fighter pilots and constantly interact with them have a better understanding of fighter operations which would lead to better coordination in the Tactical Battle Area (TBA). The lack of this kind of coordination between the US Army helicopters and US Air Force fighter was condoned both in Iraq and Kosovo. Hence, their command and control should be with the IAF for effective training and synergy in operations. They also argue that these assets were not brought by the funds of the Army as speculated by some analysts. It is certain that the AAC has to grow to keep pace with the growing requirement of the land forces. However, the solution may lie in enhancing the helicopter potential of the Indian Armed forces as a whole without fighting for ownership. The Army may realize later that they may have a requirement for the other IAF helicopters as well and may bid for them especially the CH-47F. This stalemate would hence continue and not yield any meaningful outcome. In issues like this the decision of Defence Acquisition Counsel (DAC) and the HQ IDS should be given its due.

4. Integration with Naval Aviation Arm. The Navy has not been considered in the discussion since their helicopter procurements are always specific and requires additional specifications to cater for the saline and humid environment and limted storage space. The marine variant of any helicopter would have to have blade and tail boom folding capability to enable effective storage. In addition their helicopters have been procured for a specific role and limited swing role capability exists in their variants like the Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Special Forces version of their Sea King helicopters. The NH-90 is a single package ASW helicopter that the navy intends to purchase. However, this indifference does not help in procuring a common platform for all the three services. This is not a global trend amongst the three services as can be proved by the JTR program wherein even the US Navy and Marines are on board to develop a joint heavy lift helicopter. The Navy could ask for these assets to carry out shore based SEAD missions on the Apache and intra theatre air logistics with the Chinook. This capability if existing at that time, could have given more options to the contingent commander to deploy the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in the coastal regions of Sri Lanka.

5. The IN has made a substantial investment in its aviation arm. From the various roles earmarked for the aircraft air logistics do not form any part as of now. Communiction duties discusses only limited transport of men and material theorugh ship to ship or ship to and transfer and vice versa. The Apache and Chinook helicopters are capable of being used in the marine environment provided some additional procedure like regular compressor wash of the engines are additionally carried out. This procedure is also recommended in dusty environments of the desert and hence can be catered for in the daily schedule. The only issue that would merit attention would be the lack of blade folding ability of these aircraft. This would only restrict the use of these helicopter onboard ships and require better coordination and planning. This shortcoming can probably be catered for in the future by seriously considering the use Army and IAF helicopters onboard ships. This was evident while reconfiguring the Ark Royal as a Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) which entailed offloading and reloading ammunition and then undertaking intensive training to get the ship conversant with operating an all-rotary-wing Tailored Air Group (TAG) which included five Chinook helicopters. Chinook operations presented particular challenges because of the aircraft’s size, weight on deck, lack of blade fold, and the absence transponder facilities. The solution was to go back to basics, with precise timing of flight deck movements, strict adherence to drill and pragmatic flight deck spotting [] .

Joint Ownership

5. It has been discussed that the control of these assets by a single service would lead to its underutilization due to the multirole capability of these helicopters. Hence a likely solution would be to give control these assets to a joint organization. However, there are certain criteria which have to be fulfilled for establishing such a set up. Some of these criteria of relevance to the Indian context are discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.

(a) Joint Commanders. It is imperative that the command and control such a unit is given to Joint Commanders. These officers need to understand the different capabilities, limitations, characteristics and traditions of each service and that command is exercised in different ways to account for tactics, techniques and procedures germane to each operating environment [] . With the vast experience and capability levels available in the helicopter pilots of the three services it would not be much of a challenge to cultivate joint commanders for such a unit. It is important that the officers of the Attack or heavy lit helicopter unit are comfortable to operate in varied environments.

(b) Joint Higher Defence Organisation. The US had addressed the issue of jointmanship with its restructuring under the Goldwater-Nichols Defence Reorgansiation Act of !986. As per this reorganization, the commander-in-chief has large elements form each service under his command and control and is personally responsible to the secretary of defence. However, such a structure is nation specific [] . Post independence in India the political leadership had misplaced fears of the military becoming too strong and usurping power. India had inherited the joint command structure under the Commander-in-Chief Bureaucrats exploited this fear of the politicians and eventually the Defence Secretary became the de-facto Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) [] . The integrated Defence Staff was sanctioned by the President in Nov 2001. The Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman COSC (Chief of Staff Committee) (CISC) was made the Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (CIDS). However this set up does not give the required teeth to the CIDS and the individual services headquarters continue to operate separately. In addition the infighting between the services has hampered the successful establishment of the COSC, who would be effectively incorporated into the machinery of the government. The CISC however, has the four Deputy CIDS who handle the various aspects of joint training, operations, planning and intelligence. For such a joint helicopter unit to function effectively it should operate under a joint organization which has the authority to delegate the administrative and maintenance responsibilities to individual services.

(c) Joint Doctrine. A doctrine is a system of views adopted over a period of time on the aims and character of a possible war and on the preparation of a country’s armed forces. It is dynamic and evolves constantly with the changing demography and technology. A joint doctrine would be a set of fundamental principle which will guide the employment of all the forces of an army, navy and air force in certain contingencies [] . The army doctrine of the Army only talks of using the IAF in a Blitzkrieg type military operation. The IN would be required to carryout an amphibious operation to force Pakistan to fight a three front war. The Air Force doctrine talks of the conventional use of its assets in the three campaigns and does not talk of any SEAD or patrolling roles of the attack helicopters nor the amphibious role of the Heavy lift helicopters. The IN doctrine talks of its capability as a blue water navy and tasked with the responsibility of the Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) and shore lines. A joint doctrine was finally released in 2007 by HQ IDS which however, does not specify the utilization of Attack and Heavy lift helicopters in amphibious or Special Forces operations. Even its chapter on joint training falls short due to lack of objectivity. The pilots today, comfortable in their service specific doctrine, rely only on the capability of their own platforms and procedures in joint operations leading to lack of synergy.

(d) Joint Training. The United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff Manual (CJCSM 3500.03a Septemb

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