IAF Chinooks operate normally even as US grounds its entire fleet
The Chinooks, originally known as the CH-47, are in service in the US armed forces and in Britain apart from nearly 20 other countries, are made by Boeing.
New Delhi: The Indian Air Force’s CH-47F (I) Chinook helicopters are operating normally even as the US Army has grounded its entire fleet of the iconic helicopter on the back of instances of engine fires, people familiar with the development said on Wednesday.
“IAF Chinooks are operating as they were before the development in the US. We haven’t faced any issues,” said one of the persons cited above, asking not to be named.
IAF operates a fleet of 15 Chinooks, inducted during 2019-2020.
The grounding of the US Army Chinook fleet comes at a time when engine repairs and overhaul of those helicopters are underway, said another official.
IAF has not issued any official statement on the development but HT has learnt that the air force is likely to seek details from the US Army on the grounding of its workhorse. It is not uncommon for operators to ground plane or helicopter fleets after safety-related incidents.
The Boeing-made multi-mission helicopter has been used extensively by IAF in Ladakh amid the ongoing border row with China. Alongside the air force’s Rafales, MiG-29 fighter jets, Sukhoi-30s and Apache AH-64E attack helicopters, Chinook helicopters are among the platforms that are undertaking important missions in Ladakh’s mountainous terrain.
The grounding of the full fleet of any aviation asset is a very severe action and hence all pros and cons would have been considered by the Americans, said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), former additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
“In such cases, all operators of the aircraft are informed worldwide. The fact that the IAF is continuing to fly its Chinooks implies that the technical issue affecting the American fleet is not relevant to IAF’s fleet. However, what is certain is that the IAF would be in close touch with the manufacturer and keeping a close watch on the progress of the rectification,” he said.
Even if at a later stage, the IAF’s Chinook fleet has to be checked out, its non-availability would not affect operations as the air force has a very large and capable Mi-17 fleet that would take over the task, Bahadur added.
IAF’s Chinooks set a record in April this year by flying the longest non-stop chopper sorties in India -- 1,910km in 7.5 hours -- with the operational training task requiring it to fly from Chandigarh to Jorhat.
Chinook helicopters can carry the army’s new M777 ultra-light howitzers as an underslung load for swift deployment in high-altitude areas in Ladakh and the North-East. The chopper’s primary roles include moving artillery, battlefield resupply and transportation of troops.
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In September 2015, India placed a $3.1 billion order for 15 Chinooks and 22 Apache attack helicopters to scale up the air force’s capabilities. All the platforms have been included.
The US is India’s third biggest supplier of arms, accounting for 12% of the country’s imports in the last five years, after Russia (46%) and France (27%), according to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) in March 2022.
Apart from Chinooks and Apaches, other US-origin platforms have also been used in the Ladakh sector – C-17 Globemaster III transport planes were used to move soldiers, tanks and infantry combat vehicles to the sector, while C-130J Super Hercules aircraft have undertaken sorties to support the military’s forward deployment.