A look at the Army Aviation Corps’ history and its relevance in modern day battlefields, including in Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorism (CI-CT) operations.
The Army Aviation Corps (AAC), the youngest Corps of the Indian Army, celebrated its 35th Corps Day on November 1. We take a look at the arm that adds an air dimension to the Army’s capabilities, its history, and its relevance in modern day battlefields, including Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorism (CI-CT) operations.
The roots of Army Aviation Corps
The origin of the AAC can be traced back to the raising of the Army Aviation wing of the Royal Air Force in India in 1942, and the subsequent formation of the first Indian Air Observation Post in August 1947.
The Air Observation Post units primarily acted as artillery spotters – which are the elements that help the artillery in directing the fire and also giving air support to ground forces. In the wars of 1965 and 1971, the Air Observation Post helicopters played a key role in the battlefields by flying close to the enemy lines and helping ground assets spot targets.
The Corps was raised as a separate formation on November 1 in 1986. The AAC now draws its officers and men from all arms of the Army, including a significant number from the artillery.
Immediately after raising, the units of the Corps were pressed into action in Operation Pawan by the Indian Peacekeeping Forces, in the mostly jungle areas of Sri Lanka against the Tamil Tigers. Ever since, AAC helicopters have been an inseparable part of fighting formations in all major conflict scenarios, and a life-saving asset in peace times.
Over the years, the Corps has grown by additions of new units, equipment and ground assets, and along with this, its roles and capabilities too have grown.
In October last year, President Ram Nath Kovind presented the President’s Colours to the Army Aviation Corps in a ceremonial parade held at Army Aviation Base at Nashik Road. The colours were received by the Combat Army Aviation Training School on behalf of the Army Aviation Corps.
The President’s Colours, which is a ceremonial flag, is awarded to military units or institutions as symbol of their excellence, and as recognition of their contributions both during war and peace.
The versatile role of AAC helicopters
The main roles played by the AAC choppers are that of reconnaissance, observation, casualty evacuation, essential load drops, combat search and rescue, thus adding an invaluable air dimension to the Army’s capabilities. The AAC helicopters also participate in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in peace times.
In some scenarios, Army helicopters can also act as Airborne Command Posts, replacing the ground command posts if needed.
In all types of weather and terrains, AAC choppers have proved valuable not only in their battle roles, but also by saving numerous lives through medical evacuation flights.
The Indian Army has further sharpened the AAC edge by adding dedicated aviation units along with the various operational Corps and Command formations. The AAC currently operates Chetak, Cheetah, Lancer, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, and ALH Weapon System Integrated (WSI), also known as Rudra. Acquisition of new helicopters is in the pipeline, especially in the backdrop of concerns over the fleet of the versatile but ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.
While initially, AAC operated non-weaponised helicopters and attack helicopters were only with the Air Force, post 2012, the government has allowed induction of weaponised choppers in the AAC.
Role in modern day battlefield, in counter insurgency-terrorism ops
In the modern-day battle formation, elements like infantry, short and long artillery, armoured formations and Army helicopters are closely linked with each other. These use information and data points collected from ground and airborne surveillance assets and satellites. Helicopters are a key element of this battlefield, which is going to become even more technology-intensive in the future.
These battle machines, which can perform both observation/recce and attack functions, are an ideal choice for CI-CT operations to tackle difficult terrains, and also avoid ground-based threats like Improvised Explosive Devices and ambushes. Having said this, use of air assets in CI-CT operations is always done with caution because of the possibility of collateral damage.
With the motto Suveg and Sudridh (Swift and Sure), the youngest corps of the Indian Army is set to further grow in its tactical importance in the battlefield. Serving officers and veterans from the Corps say that the corps will need a stronger push of modernisation and enhancement of assault capabilities to take further its role of ‘force multiplier.’
On Sunday (November 1), the Indian Army tweeted, “Suveg and Sudhidh. General MM Naravane and all ranks of Indian Army convey best wishes to all ranks of Army Aviation Corps on the occasion of 35th Army Aviation Corps Day.”
Source: The Indian Express