Govt to hire 13 private choppers for use in Naxal areas

Govt to hire 13 private choppers for use in Naxal areas

Helicopters of either MI-17 series or of equivalent capability, which can fly both at day and night, will be deployed in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, possibly before the end of the year.

These choppers would be in addition to the existing fleet of about 20 Indian Air Force and BSF helicopters being deployed in Maoist-affected areas. Six helicopter operators, including foreign companies, have showed interest to the Home Ministry's proposal under which choppers would be given on wet lease to the government for an initial period of one year extendable up to three years.

The helicopters would have a minimum airlift capability of 18-20 fully equipped, armed security personnel and fly to air destination at least for 400 km away or 200 km one way and return without refueling.

The choppers would have slithering facilities and preferably armour plated for safety of crew, passengers and their vital components and would be able to operate from prepared or semi-prepared helipads.

Sources said the helicopters would be used for evacuating casualties, search and rescue operations, movement of armed troops and surveillance by day and night. The operating crew would be provided by the charter company while complying the Director General of Civil Aviation prescribed qualifications.

Each helicopter will have to fly at least 80 hours per month while all periodic maintenance are to be carried out as per DGCA regulations at specified locations. The chartered company will bear expenses towards personnel, fuel, transportation, insurance and maintenance but the operational control will be exercised by the Home Ministry.