Air Force can now fire back at Naxals

The IAF can fire back if Naxals shoot at them. But the regular set of helicopter weapons like rockets and missile cannot be used as they are more destructive. Instead, the air warriors can use machine-guns mounted on both sides of a helicopter.

The IAF helicopters were subject to Naxal strikes in the past leading to death of air warriors. The government was so far reluctant to permit the IAF to fire back on the ground that defence forces should not be used against India’s own citizens even if they do not have faith in the present form of democracy and governance.

“IAF sought permission to shoot in self-defence, which has been agreed upon. The choppers will be carrying two Garuda commandos who can fire. Fortunately the IAF did not have to use the firing option so far,” said highly-placed sources.

At the moment, no IAF helicopters – primarily Mi-17 and Dhruv – involved in anti-Naxal operations, have the armour-plating, which reduces a chopper’s load carrying capacity even though it makes the helicopters safer. In Bastar, only four helicopters are in service.
The shortage in helicopters limits the options for the forces. The situation can improve after Russia starts delivering the fresh batch of medium-lift Mi-17 helicopters.

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