Chetak helicopters are not just machines, they touch people’s hearts and by being a versatile carrier in serving the country during times of war and peace, they give life, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the 60-year-old workhorse.
“We celebrate diamond jubilees of institutions and organisations, but here the Indian Air Force is celebrating diamond jubilee of a helicopter,” he said, likening the event to Ayudha Puja or worship of weapons, and while connecting it to another Chetak, the horse of Maharana Pratap in the Battle of Haldighati in 16th century.
Mr. Singh joined top-ranking officials of the IAF, its veterans and scientists from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the manufacturer of Chetak helicopters since 1962, here at CISF-NISA at Hakimpet on Saturday.
He said the diamond jubilee conclave is a fitting tribute to Chetak for its invaluable contribution in all the wars that India fought.
Chetaks trained pilots of the tri-services and the Coast Guard, provided air support and logistics to troops, extended humanitarian assistance and evacuated victims of natural calamities. In the 1971 war, Bangladesh pilots too were trained with Chetaks, he recalled, exemplifying it as a symbol of jointmanship and integration. Chetaks received four ‘Veer Chakra’ awards in the war, and through adaptation, modification and upgradation, they remain a frontline platform even after 60 years, he said.
Role for pvt. sector
Mr. Singh, while observing that India showed its strength in the five-tonne category helicopters in design, development and operation, such as the Light Combat Helicopter and Light Utility Helicopter, underlined the need for progress in the 10-tonne Indian Multirole Helicopter.
“As per an estimate, there is a demand for more than 1,000 civilian helicopters and an equal number of helicopters in the military sector,” he said, adding that India’s rotary wing aircraft domain is full of potential.
The Defence Minister informing about the government’s measures in promoting participation by private sector, to achieve the larger Atmanirbhar Bharat ideal in the sector, also said that the Foreign Direct Investment was enhanced to access modern technology.
“Free technology is being transferred to private companies by DRDO. Two private indigenisation lists of defence items have been issues and the third list will also be released soon,” he said, explaining the potential in the helicopter market and the opportunities to purse self-reliance as a priority.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshall V.R. Chaudhari and other top officials released a premiere on Chetak helicopter, a special cover and coffee table book at the programme. Amid nostalgic recollection and association with the Chetaks, they later participated in a photo display of the aircraft through the years.
The conclave witnessed discussions on capabilities of Chetak, its maintenance, self-reliant avenues in the helicopter market and transformation of helicopter operations.