Army Aviation Corps
Pakistan Army Aviation gained autonomy from Pakistan Air Force in 1958, and gained full corps status in 1977. Auster Mk 5 and Mk 6 were used at first. In 1957 60 O-1 Bird Dogs were delivered from US which mostly replaced the Austers, making two frontline Air Observation Post (AOP) squadrons possible. More O-1s were later assembled at Army's 503 Workshop at Dhaimal, eventualy producing 60 percent of the components locally. The Army also started maintaining its own aircraft as well after the aquisition of these aircraft. Army Aviation School opened in 1959. Some 18 Bell 47/ OH-13s joined the Army in 1964 after the helicopter trained Pakistan pilots returned from the USA. These aircraft allowed the formation of several composite units. These units were used during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war for spotting, liason, and FAC. The Bell 47 is a grand old helicopter but it went out of production in 1973 and they have all but disappeared in the commercial world.
After the war Pakistan aquired 24 Alouette IIIs from Aerospatiale of France, some of them were assembled by the Army itself. These Alouettes have been joined by several others from different sources, including sixSA 315B Lamas from Romania in 1987. The Lamas are used for high-altitute operations in Siachin and Karakoram.
Medium-lift capability came with the procurement of 12 Mil Mi-8s. These were used in rescue and disaster operations in East Pakistan along with Alouette IIIs. Both of the types also saw some action during the War of 1971 in East Pakistan and were withdrawn from the theatre through Burma (Myanmar).
The US supplied six UH-1Hs as a gift for future disaster relief operations in 1973. In 1974 Iran donated 10 AB 205As. The same year Saab MFI-17s were inducted for training and liason. The initial batch numbered 115, of them 23 were delivered as complete aircraft the rest in kit form to be assembled at Risalpur. These aircraft are locally called Mushshak. The production of this type was transferred from Sweden to Kamra, Pakistan. In 1975 12 Bell 206Bs were aquired from USA, and few JetRangers III joined them a few years later.
In 1976 the Army aquired 32 Aerospatiale SA 330J Pumas, which formed two new squadrons, and boosted the assault and medium-lift capability. Pakistan Army's requirement for armed attack helicopter was fulfilled in 1985. Two squadrons with ten AH-1S Cobras each were formed. These squadrons also operate a few Bell 206s as scouts. In 1997 Pakistan doubled its Mil Mi-8 inventory by aquiring 12 more in the form of Mil Mi-17 from CIS, half of these are seems to be located at Quetta. The location of the rest is unknown. The Army also operates Rockwell Turbo Commander 690s, a sigle Commander MA Jetprop 840 for surveys. And a single McDonnell Douglas MD-500E for Inter-Service Intelligence.
The force services of Pakistan made a choice of Mi-171 helicopter for a long time as a principal helicopter of middle / heavy class in its fleet. Pakistan purchased the first batch of Mi-171 helicopters from Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant in 2001 to fulfil the needs of its army aviation and air forces. The helicopters has proven to be adequate in operation and got a high valuation from Pakistani users. Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) enriched its fleet with two Mi-171 helicopters of Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant in 2008. The UK agreed to donate two Mi-17 helicopters and a spares packageto the value of up to £6 million to the Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) tobe used for counter narcotics activity on the Pakistan/Afghan border. Funding for the gift was made available from Home Office capital budget for the Financial Year ending 31 March 2006. The helicopters provide the ANF with much needed independent aircapacity to help them conduct both operational and eradication related tasks. The UK had previously gifted Ml 17 helicopters to the Pakistan ANF in 1995. Both are out of service: one unfortunately crashed during the autumn 2005 earthquake, and the other was awaiting a major airframe overhaul. Without air assets, the ANF's ability to deploy effectively, and in a timely way is compromised.
On 24 September 2003, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan of Bell 407 Helicopters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $97 million. The Government of Pakistan requested a possible sale of 40 Bell 407 helicopters with commercial avionics package, support equipment, spare/repair parts, publications/technical data, personnel training/equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.
The proposed sale of Bell helicopters will have a significant impact on Pakistan's ability to secure its borders. At the same time, this technology poses no threat to the balance of power in the region. This proposed sale will have a dramatic impact on Pakistan's ability to support U.S. objectives in the Global War on Terror. The terrain along Pakistan's border is extremely rugged and difficult to secure. Its dense mountainous regions, rugged terrain and vast borders make it virtually impossible to secure without the mobility provided by aviation assets. Vehicle support is limited to utility trucks, and there is limited cross-country capability. The lack of mobility for observation, transportation and interdiction seriously limits Pakistan's ability to stop border-crossing violations. The addition of U.S. provided helicopters would add the following capabilities required for anti-terrorist and border security operations: (1) observation platforms to better patrol the mountainous border region, and (2) transportation platforms to move personnel to areas of suspected infiltrations.
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. On 24 October 2007 the US formally handed over 26 Bell-412 helicopters and four completely refurbished Cobra helicopters to the Pakistan Army. US Ambassador Anne Patterson handed the helicopters over to Defence Secretary Kamran Rasool. Rasool thanked the US government and said that the induction of these helicopters into the army would significantly enhance their operational capabilities. Speaking at the formalising ceremony of the final acceptance and transfer of 25 Bell-412 helicopters to the army at Qasim Airbase, Patterson praised Pakistan Army Aviation and said that the induction of these helicopters would strengthen their efforts to fight extremism and bring peace and stability to the region. She said the day marked a new chapter in Army Aviation's history. "This event demonstrates the continued commitment of the US to cooperation with Pakistan," Patterson said. "Our military assistance program are for the long term. They are the foundation for cooperation and engagement, and a way to strengthen our bonds as partners and allies."
On October 8, 2005, at about 8:35 am, worst ever earthquake in this region, measuring 7.6 on Richter scale, hit Islamabad, remote and mountainous areas of Kashmir and Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. It was estimated that more than 74,000 people died and about were 100,000 severely injured. All Aviation assets of the Pakistan Army Aviation were mobilized for relief and rescue operations. It was one of the biggest rescue operation which was undertaken by air due to badly damaged and almost non-existence of the road links. During the month of October 2005, Army Aviation and other Pilots flew over 4,000 hours to evacuate more than 1,00,000 victims of earthquake. More than 141 helicopters including those from allied friendly countries joined the rescue effort to shift more than 12,00,000 injured people to the hospitals. Till April, 2005, the entire Aviation fleet of helicopters had flown for 12,500 hours in affected areas for delivery of relief goods and rescue of injured persons.
On September 26, 2008 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified 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 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.
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