Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The backbone of IAF transport fleet : Mi-17

 The Medium Multi role Mi-17 Helicopter

    Regarded one of the best transport helicopters, the Mi 17 is surely the most versatile and strategic asset. Designed in 1977 as a troop transport helicopter for the Soviet forces, the Mi17 soon evolved to a versatile heptor capable of handling multi-role missions and being extremely nimble on the battlefield. More than 12000 air-frame today serve across the world and have seen extensive action. The Mi-17 is undoubtedly the backbone for all copter oriented transport missions of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The Mi-17 was first procured by the IAF in the late 70’s, when India was offered the Mi-8 transport helicopter.   

      The Mi-17 was develop around the Mi-8 medium transport copter and received major boost to its lift capabilities. The Mi-17’s were provided with more powerful engines and reinforced air-frame which could support heavier payload and operate at higher altitudes. The copter was also designed to carry external wet pylons which could carry missiles. The main rotors were re-designed and larger rotors were introduced to support heavier payloads, the tail rotor was also re-designed and re-positioned towards the port side.

    Powered by twin Kilmov engines the helicopter can carry up to thirty war ready soldiers or four tonne of cargo. The twin Kilmov engines churn out 1600 kW and can power the copter to a maximum speed of 250 km/hour. The Mi-17 can traverse more than 500 kilometer at standard set up mode and enjoys a laudable 200 kilometer combat radius when operating at maximum operational load.

      The Mi-17 V5 not only serve as transport helicopters but can also be used as an attack copter, thanks to the offensive punch it packs with the guided rockets and guns. The attack capability will be a major morale booster for the soldiers deployed on the battlefield. Mi 17 is fitted with 30mm gun pod and 60mm unguided rockets which can spell havoc over enemy targets. The Mi 17 fleet under IAF, employees a meticulously combined system compromising of the cannon and rockets. Mi-17 is also provided with conformal fuel tank which is a boost in increasing the operational range of the copters.

      Owing to their huge size, the Mi-17’s are sitting ducks waiting to be fired upon by enemy SAM batteries and shoulder fired missiles. But this has been meticulously worked out by equipping the copter with advanced countermeasure suites which can evade and out manoeuvre missiles. Information regarding the exact counter measure remains to be extremely skeptical, Russian Mi 17 has been spotted gearing the Ukrainian made ADROS counter measure systems which are part of the Indian Mi-35 attack helicopter fleet. The Indian version of the Mi 17 is rumored to be fitted with the Israeli made C-MUSIC directional counter measure systems, this DIRCM is capable of engaging infrared guided missiles.

       India currently operates more than 150 Mi 8 and nearly 70 Mi-17 V5 copters. The Mi-8 airframes are rapidly aging and a replacement is the need of the hour for the transport wing of IAF.  IAF has now come with an ambitious plan of replacing the Mi-8’s with advanced Mi-17’s which can be rapidly inducted into the air force. By 2008 India had concluded a contract with Russia to supply 80 Mi 17 helicopters under a deal estimated at $1.4 billion. The first set of five Mi 17 V5 helicopters was delivered to India in early 2012, impressed with the performance of these beasts India opted for a follow on order for 71 more Mi-17 helicopters at a whooping $1.3 billion deal. IAF is contemplating of procuring 48 more helicopters at an estimated $1 billion dollar deal.

     The Mi-17’s are highly regarded in the IAF for their capabilities and ruggedness. The Mi-17 was used initially in the ‘Kargil operation’ to ferry troops to front-line but was later pulled off taking into account the higher position of the enemies. The Mi-17 has been efficiently used in humanitarian missions supported by the IAF. These Mi-17s have served as the backbone for all rescue missions operated by the IAF.  Mi-17 was also part of the ‘Cross-border special operation’ carried out by the 21st Para contingent.  The Mi-17 V5 copters are also used to ferry the Indian President and the Prime Minister proving the level of confidence put into the aircraft by India. Thus the addition of Mi-17 to the force is a major boost to the operational capability of IAF.

Editor Karthik Kakoor 

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