Army Aviation today has a reckonable fleet poised for a definite and critical role be it peace or war. Army Aviation provides mainly four types of aviation support during operations of the field Army, namely composite or light aircraft support, cargo, combat and high altitude support. Composite support is available at all times, however, availability of cargo and combat support subjects to Army's overall plans.
Light Aircraft Support Composite squadron is integral to each Corps, comprising single engine fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. Tasking of these aircrafts is: Command and liaison; Conduct Artillery shoots as authorized observers; Act as Airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC); Battle field surveillance; Reconnaissance; and Casualty evacuation.
Cargo Aviation Support comprises cargo helicopters mainly the Pumas and MI-17s. The cargo Aviation support includes the following: Shifting of troops, heavy weapons and equipment to the most threatened sectors; Heliborne and anti heliborne operations in support of offensive and defensive operations; Support to Aviation Combat Group to establish Aerial Forward Area Arming and Refueling Point (FAARP); Specialized transfrontier operations to include raids, ambushes etc.; and Electronic Warfare Operations.
Combat Aviation Support comprises the combination of Attack (Cobras) and Scout helicopters (Jet Rangers) grouped into combat flights in a Combat Squadron. The two combat squadrons form part of Aviation Combat Group.
High Altitude Support Alouette-III helicopter of French origin was inducted in mid sixties to support the construction of Karakuram Highway. This helicopter proved extremely effective in Northern and AK areas. Siachin conflict, however, confronted Army Aviation with altitudes, where Alouette-III helicopter was stretched to the maximum limits of its capabilities and its load carrying capacity reduced tremendously. A need was felt to induct a suitable high altitude helicopter. Induction of Lama and MI-17 helicopters significantly enhanced Aviation support to troops deployed in high altitudes. However, Alouette-III and Puma helicopters are still operating upto 4000 and 6000 meters respectively. Early eighties saw Siachin flare up and Alouette-III, Lama and Puma helicopters played an important part.
Army Aviation Modernization
In 1947, at the time of independence, Pakistan inherited four fabric covered Auster airplanes. These were part of an "Air Observation Post Squadron", which was deployed in Lahore in support of Punjab Boundary Commission. These four Auster aircraft were grouped in Chaklala as 1st Air Observation Post flight. The first important acquisition of Army Aviation was the induction of L-19s in 1958 and OH-13s which were received after the Korean conflict as part of US Aid.
The 1960s saw induction of Alloutte-III from France and MI-8s from Russia. With the enhanced canvas now possible, the induction of pilots which was being made from Artillery alone was made open to all arms. It became a separate Corps in 1977. The next important land mark was the induction of Puma Cargo helicopters from France in 1978 and yet another major leap was the Combat Group raised through 20 Cobra helicopters received from USA in 1985. The decade of nineties saw the induction of MI-17 helicopters from Russia.
The AH-1 F/S Cobra's are used for attack operations. The Bell-412's & UH-1H's are used for VIP/General transport and light troop transport along with relief operations and air support. The SA/IAR-330 Puma's are used for for Troop transport, Air support, VIP transport, and special operations, while the MI-17's are used for troop transport and relief operations. The Eurocopter AS-350 Ecureuil's are used for VIP transport and high altitude missions, Alloutte III's for reconnaissance and general transport, and Bell 206 Jet-Rangers for reconnaissance and light relief operations.
In 2004, Pakistan and the US embarked on a long-term $235 million project to help build Army Aviation's capability. During the first phase of the project, Pakistan leased the helicopters while the US provided the resources, funding, training and support to help Pakistan establish a strong and reliable helicopter fleet.
With the beginning of Phase-II of the program, the Pakistan Army took ownership of these helicopters. The US formally handed over 26 Bell-412 helicopters and four completely refurbished Cobra helicopters to the Pakistan Army at a ceremony held 24 October 2007. The US will continue to provide support and training as Pakistan establishes a helicopter force capable of enhancing combat operations, providing security, and engaging in medical evacuations and humanitarian relief throughout the region.
Maj Gen Syed Taqi Naseer Rizvi, director general of Army Aviation, said he hoped the helicopters would "go a long way in fortifying the country's capability to effectively combat the menace of terrorism." Defence Secretary Kamran Rasool said that the induction of these helicopters into the army would significantly enhance their operational capabilities.
In 1985 Pakistan acquired 20 AH-1F helicopters under the Excess Defence Articles (EDA), which were then refurbished and assigned to the Army's base at Multan in central Pakistan. According to one report, the Army had procured dozens of excess AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters since 2002, though no further details were forthcoming. It is said that at least 32 had been brought into service to supplement the serving 18. As of 2007 equipment delivered or in the pipeline included 26 Bell 412 helicopters; 20 AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters and modernisation of Pakistan's existing Cobra fleet. The AH-1F was the final Cobra upgrade in the US Army, which phased in out of active army service in 1999 and National Guard service in 2001. They are still in use in number of countries, including Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan, et. al. This The army reportedly ordered or has plans to add 20 more usable AH-1s and upgrade its entire fleet with AH-1Z King Cobra avionics and new weapon systems such as the TOW-2 and Hellfire missiles.
Pakistan lodged an FMS (Foreign Military Sales) application in September 2008 for the refurbishment and upgrade of eight AH-1F aircraft. On September 26, 2008 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified the US Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan of AH-1F Cobra helicopter refurbishment as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $115 million. The Government of Pakistan had requested a possible sale of refurbishment and maintenance of eight AH-1F Cobra Helicopters. The Government of Pakistan has also requested warranties, system integration, spare and repairs parts, including transportation for the parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $115 million. By May 2009 the United States was committed to supporting the upgrade of Pakistan's Bell AH-1F Cobra helicopters but the deal was being slowed down by complications associated with the Pentagons' foreign military sales. The Pakistani request for more Cobras had been slowed by the fact that the helicopters were no longer in production and aircraft must be located and refurbished.
Under the US Marine Corps H-1 program, 100 UH-1N Huey utility helicopters are being remanufactured by Bell Helicopter to the UH-1Y grade and 180 AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters to AH-1Z grade. However, in April 2005, the USMC decided that the helicopters will be built as new rather than remanufactured, starting from the third Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) batch in 2008.
In response to a request from the government of Pakistan, the United States delivered four MI-17 cargo helicopters to the Pakistani Army on 11 June 2009. The four Russian-made helicopters are owned by the U.S. Army. Two are at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and two are in Slovakia. According to US the Embassy, the additional helicopters were meant to enhance Pakistan's capabilities in current operations against militants and its efforts to care for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who have been displaced from their homes by the fighting. The US was in the process of identifying additional MI-17s that may be made available to Pakistan in the future.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|