With an aim of augmenting logistical support for paramilitary forces in the anti-Naxal operations, Indian Air Force will start withdrawing its 20 helicopters from the U.N. peace-keeping missions from November.
The “phased withdrawal” of the choppers from three peace-keeping missions in Africa will be completed by June next year, Defence Ministry sources told PTI here.
The de-induction decision was taken after the IAF found itself hard-pressed for choppers while extending logistical help to paramilitary forces in anti-Naxal operations, they said.
IAF’s medium-lift MI-17 and MI-8 choppers are deployed in three African countries including Congo and Sudan and help in transportation of U.N. troops and equipment there.
The Home Ministry has been seeking enhanced logistical support from the IAF in terms of movement of personnel and casualty evacuation particularly in inhospitable areas.
The IAF had told the government that if it were to assist in anti-Naxal operations, it would require more helicopters, following which the clearance was given for calling back the choppers.
The Defence forces are not inclined to get involved in combat operations against Naxals fearing collateral damage and want to leave it to police and paramilitary forces.
At the same time, the IAF has kept four MI-17s in Raipur on standby in case these may be required for evacuation purposes in anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh.
The IAF has a fleet of around 150 medium-lift MI-17 and MI-8 helicopters, which are used for maintenance of troops in high altitude areas of Jammu and Kashmir and North East and to carry out relief and rescue missions during natural disasters.