Saturday, April 11, 2009

BSF buys 8 Dhruv helicopters

S. Anandan

Kochi: The Border Security Force (BSF) has embarked on a major expansion of its air wing in a bid to give a thrust to its border patrol and internal security roles in a context of stepped up vigil along the country’s borders. The force intends to add eight helicopters and three fixed-wing medium lift transport aircraft to its existing fleet. The fleet now includes six MI-17 helicopters, an Embraer, two King Air and two Avro aircraft.

“We are acquiring eight Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH). Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) started deliveries in March and our pilots are training in various academies in the country…,” M.L. Kumawat, the BSF Director General, told The Hindu in Chennai during an exclusive interaction recently.

The Cabinet has given its nod for the BSF acquiring transport aircraft, and the force is considering its options. “In the meantime, we will hire aircraft from Air India to carry out the job,” said Mr. Kumawat.

Shortages overcome

The air wing had hit an air pocket owing to dire shortage of pilots. This brought down the serviceability of its choppers to an all-time low. “Unfortunately, we had a shortage of pilots and were not in a position to fly more than one of our six helicopters at any given time. But things have turned around in the last couple of months and the situation is now looking up,” said Mr. Kumawat.

“We have given our helicopters to the naxalite-affected States for surveillance and also to airlift counter-insurgency troops. They have also been used for action against Pakistan intruders, particularly fishermen who ventured into our territory regardless of warning. By means of slithering operations in the Sir Creek area, we have foiled their attempts and caught their assets. From intelligence gathered by the Air Force and the BSF, it is obvious that they are no longer coming into the Sir Creek area,” he said. However, the force continues to carry out aerial surveillance in the region to thwart attempts at seaborne infiltration.

Among the soldier-friendly measures that are under way is betterment of living conditions in the border out posts (BOPs). “BOPs are to BSF what police stations are to the police. We want to make them congenial, liveable and worker-friendly,” said Mr. Kumawat.

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