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IAF to procure 71 more armed choppers

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IAF's Mi-17 V5 armed helicopter. A PTI Photo.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Aiming at strengthening its medium-lift helicopter fleet, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to procure 71 more Mi-17 V5 choppers, including 12 for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

These would be in addition to the 80 already ordered from Russia.

The MI-17 V5 falls in armed helicopter category, with substantial and effective firepower. It has latest and more powerful engines that enhance its payload carrying capability at higher altitudes.

Of the 80 choppers ordered earlier, Defence Minister A K Antony formally inducted their first batch on Friday.

Of the 71 helicopters to be ordered, 59 would be provided to the IAF for replacing its old Mi-8 and Mi-17IV choppers and six would be given to the Border Security Force.

The remaining six would be distributed among the other central armed police forces, IAF officials said.

Earlier the IAF was proceeding with the acquisition of 59 choppers only but later on the MHA requested to club its requirements also in the same Defence Ministry proposal, they said.

In 2008, India had signed a deal with Russia to supply 80 Mi-17s to augment its existing fleet of around 150 Mi-8 and Mi-17 medium-lift choppers, which have over five tonne load carrying capability and are also used to ferry troops and VIPs.

IAF had felt the need of inducting more medium-lift choppers after a spate of natural disasters following the tsunami in December 2004 and heavy snowfall in Kashmir in 2005.

The Mi-17 V5 is an upgrade of Mi-17 choppers in the medium-lift category and is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and on board navigation systems.

On the machine's capabilities, an IAF official said, "It has on-board weather radar, state-of-the-art autopilot and is compatible with the latest generation night vision goggles."

The Mi-17 variants have operated in various types of terrain, including Siachen Glacier, and have also proved their mettle in UN missions.

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