Congo chopper pullout – India refuses UN request to extend IAF deployment


India has turned down a request from the United Nations to keep its helicopter gunships in troubled Congo and is preparing to withdraw the last four next month.India has cited domestic compulsions for turning down the request, made by the UN because Congo is heading into a residential election. The Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters were the backbone of the UN peace enforcement mission, known as Monusco, in the African country.

India rarely turns down UN deployment requests but the air force has informed the government that the logistics of maintaining its assets in Africa, combined with an increasing domestic demand, was making the deployment untenable. The contract with the UN’s Congo mission expires on July 4.

The last four helicopters to be withdrawn are Russian-origin Mi 35 helicopters, basically for use as close air support during assault operations on ground targets.

Originally, India had 17 helicopters in Congo and Sudan, of which eight were Mi 25 and Mi 35 gunships and the others were Mi 17 multi-utility transport helicopters. All the helicopters, barring the last four Mi 35s, have been brought back.

Mi 17s are also used in support of central and state police forces in counter Maoist operations as well as in maintenance of army positions in the Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.

For counter-Maoist operations, the IAF has armed Mi 17s. There is no known request from the home ministry for helicopter gunships. But the ministry’s repeated requests for Mi 17s, too, has not elicited a positive response. The ministry has now decided to wet-lease six helicopters.

The air force has also informed the defence ministry that maintaining the Mi 35s and Mi 25s in Africa, in failsafe conditions, required cannibalising parts from the other helicopters. This means the IAF had to probably ground helicopters here because spares from them were needed to keep the machines flying in Africa.

“I am obliged to note that (the United Nations’) military operations are being negatively impacted by the shortage of military helicopters,” Roger Meece, the UN special representative, warned the Security Council last week, according to a UN statement. The US and western nations have typically shied away from deploying costly military assets in UN peace missions.

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Posted by pilotpaul on Jun 18 2011. Filed under All News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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