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Helicopter Flight 126
"Featherweights"

The unit has operated only the MI-26 Helicopter. This is relatively a very young unit and it has not participated in any operations since its inception. Helicopter squadron was formed in May 1986 with a Unit Establishment (UE) of two helicopters. Requisite manpower of 12 officers, 79 airmen and 21 non-combatants enrolled {NCs(E)} was sanctioned in February 1987 for operation and maintenance of the helicopters. On induction of two more helicopters in the squadron from February 1989, the Ministry sanctioned additional manpower of 6 officers, 63 airmen and 7 NCs(E) in July 1993 revising the UE of the squadron to 18 officers, 142 airmen and 28 NCs(E). The additional manpower was expected to cause additional expenditure of Rs 29.15 lakh/w annum.

In order to meet the heavy lift requirements of Indian Air Force (IAF), Government procured two MI-26 helicopters at a cost of Rs 36.09 crore and inducted them into squadron service in May 1986. Two more helicopters were inducted in February 1989. There is a separate squadron for MI-26 helicopters. Functional and operational control of the squadron is exercised by Air HQ.

IAF had a mix of medium and light helicopters. Each of them had a limited lift capability which progressively got reduced at high altitudes. In view of this. Air HQ projected a requirement in October 1985 for six heavy lift helicopters. Government, however, approved in November 1985 procurement of only two helicopters along with spares, ground support and other equipment at a cost not exceeding Rs 50 crore with an option to procure two more at a later date after these helicopters were proved under Indian environmental conditions.

There were significant shortfalls in the performance of the helicopter since its induction with reference to the approved utilisation rate. The shortfall ranged between 76.74 per cent to 88 per cent during 1992-1996.

Two helicopters valuing Rs 45.43 crore were lying unserviceable and grounded. While one helicopter was grounded for more than 26 months, another helicopter was grounded for a period of 38 months. During June 1995 to May 1996, three out of four helicopters were unserviceable. This adversely affected the operational capability of the squadron. The state of serviceability of the helicopter fleet was poor and registered a declining trend during 1993-1996.

Two of the four helicopters were sent to the manufacturers abroad for overhaul in June 1991. These were received back in August 1993 after 26 months as against the normal period of 10 months, affecting the operational exploitation of the helicopter fleet;

Procurement of two additional helicopters in 1988 at a cost of Rs 45.43 crore lacked justification in view of their low utilisation;




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