With naxal attacks against security forces showing no let up, the government is planning to position helicopters at a few additional places for quick response to reinforcement and rescue needs.
To enable deployment of additional helicopters, officials of the central security forces and the Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand governments are scouting for safe helipad locations as close as possible to the battalion or company headquarters.
Helicopters of the Border Security Force (BSF) are presently stationed at Ranchi and Raipur, the state capitals of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
The existing BSF fleet of three to four Dhruv Advance Light Helicopters and two Mi-17 helicopters are deployed in supporting anti-naxal operations and the Home Ministry is planning to add some more helicopters to it.
The new helipad sites surveyed in Chhattisgarh are Narayanpur and Kanker where the Army run Counter insurgency and Jungle Warfare school is located and one site at Gumla in Jharkhand.
These steps have been fast-tracked in the aftermath of the April six Dantewada naxal attack which killed 75 CRPF personnel and a Chhattisgarh policeman.
According to sources, helicopter support in naxal areas has helped save the lives of paramilitary and police personnel who were injured in naxal ambushes.
A senior officer disclosed that two bleeding CRPF men among those ambushed in Dantewada were saved because of the timely airlift to a hospital by a BSF helicopter. "The helicopter is the best friend of troops in operation," the officer added.
While an Mi-17 can accommodate about 25-27 personnel, a 'Dhruv' can carry ten to twelve men. The number of stretchered casualties that can be carried are far less.
According to sources, the new helipads will be "located close to the base of paramilitary or specialised combat forces so that the security and safety of these air assets can be ensured by these troops," a senior officer said.