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Indian Army tests 'Air Cavalry' concept

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A helicopter and a tank in coordinated action during the practice of Air Cavalry concept in recently concluded exercise Vijay Prahar at Mahajan Field Firing Range in Rajasthan. A PTI Photo

JAIPUR (PTI): The Indian Army has tested in the desert terrain of Rajasthan the military concept of 'Air Cavalry' that was used by the US Army to locate and assault enemy ground forces during the Vietnam War, an official said.

To enhance its defence capabilities, the Army tested the concept under which weaponised helicopters carry out combined action against the enemy in coordination with tanks and mechanised ground forces.

This being done by the Indian Army, with an eye on the future, which is focusing on strengthening its combative air assets by procuring attack helicopters.

This is a new concept for the Indian Army and it is aimed at reshaping land battle by defeating the enemy by offensive punch from the air in coordination with tanks on the ground.

In the recently held offensive exercise 'Vijay Prahar' in Mahajan firing ranges near Suratgarh, the concept of 'Air Cavalry' was tried by the South Western command, defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Ojha told PTI.

The concept was implemented after a detailed deliberation, sand-model discussions and war gaming.

In normal battle scenario, attack helicopters are called in on requirement basis by forces moving on the ground to launch an attack where the ground forces are not able to neutralise the target due to any reason, including difficult terrain.

Under the 'Air Cavalry' concept, attack helicopters are fully integrated with tanks and mechanised ground forces.

A fleet of armed helicopters simultaneously flies in air and performs a number of tasks, including troop insertion in forward areas, on the spot aerial recce, launching attacks and it proves more powerful and a good speed in the action is achieved.

This requires a very high degree of precision, coordination and continuous upgradation. It saves time and energy," another senior officer of the SW command said.

"The forces achieve more flexibility and fluidity in an operation and multitasking can be performed more quickly, swiftly and effectively and the ground commanders can act decisively, boldly and offensively, the officer said.

Under this kind of arrangement, attack helicopters can engage targets in the shortest possible time and the mission can be accomplished in a very flexible and effective manner.

This concept can be executed in different kind of terrains depending upon the feasibility.

While the US used this concept in the jungles of Vietnam during the war from 1954-75, India tested it in scorching heat in desert terrain to sharpen its teeth.

The Army is gradually inducting helicopters equipped with ultra-modern sensors and high-precision weapons and therefore a need was felt to use the Air Cavalry concept for increasing capabilities in monitoring and protecting both eastern and western borders of the country.

The Indian Army is focusing on its own combative air assets so there was a requirement that a concept should be in place for the best utilisation of attack helicopters. The helicopters will be used as force multiplier and will increase the potency of ground forces to engage the targets, defence sources said.

The Army's combative air assets will be crucial in the land battles in desert along the western front as well as in the eastern front where the terrain is mountainous, the sources said.

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is developing Light Combat Helicopter for the Army to meet its requirement for an attack helicopter which can operate at high altitude. The Army will also procure multi-role AH-64 'E' Apache attack helicopter manufactured by American aviation giant Boeing.

The Defence Ministry in August last year had approved the procurement of six most advanced Apache helicopters along with weapons systems at a cost of Rs 4,168 crore which will be the Army's first fleet of attack choppers.

Apaches have played a vital role in international conflicts, including in the Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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