A battle-ready BSF 'Dhruv' helicopter, deployed for undertaking sorties to aid anti-Naxal operations, is lying idle for close to six months in Chhattisgarh's capital Raipur as authorities are not able to find a pilot to fly the machine.
The air wing of the ministry of home affairs (MHA), already hard-pressed for rationalising sorties for air support missions in Naxal hotbeds of Maoist violence-affected states, is in talks with helicopter company Pawan Hans to find a "principal pilot" for the machine.
The chopper, an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) 'Dhruv' manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), has been embossed with the Border Security Force (BSF) logo and colours and carries the registration number "VT-HAA".
It is parked since November last year in the military hangar located at the Mana airport in Raipur.
"MHA and BSF are looking for a pilot to fly the machine but nothing has been worked out till now. The co-pilot and other technicians are in place. This is unfortunate but the issue is being thrashed out," top sources dealing with anti-Naxal air operations said.
BSF has also approached HAL in this regard while it expects that a suitable candidate from the Indian Air Force or an ex-Air Force pilot could come to its aid.
Force commanders working in the anti-Naxal operations grid have also expressed their concern and an urgent desire to fly this idle chopper as they are heavily constrained to cater to air support sorties for almost 85,000 troops of central forces and others with the help of about eight helicopters at present.
"At a given time, only five to six choppers are available for operations as the others have to undergo servicing and overhauling procedures.
"Also, every IAF helicopter has an 80-hour per month flying cap. Even one chopper added to the fleet will help us in aiding many wounded troops or send in reinforcements during ambushes with Naxals," a senior official said.
The MHA air wing, tasked for anti-Maoist operations, has four Mi-17 helicopters of IAF while another four ALH 'Dhruvs' are part of the BSF air wing.
The bases for these helicopters are mainly in Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Ranchi (Jharkhand) and they cater to the Left-Wing Extremism-affected states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
The choppers are the most vital machines when it comes to air insertion of troops for deployment, casualty evacuation and sending reinforcements to assist anti-Naxal operations.