Army to get 12 more aircraft

- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Aug 19, 2017-The Nepal Army, which is running short of aircraft, will soon have additional 12 choppers and fixed wing planes, taking the fleet size to 24.

Eight of them will be bought from different companies while four will be gifted by the United States. The NA has already signed a deal with PT Dirgantara Indonesia to buy a 49-seater CN235-220 plane. It also has started the process to procure six--two each Heavy Transport, Medium Transport and Light Transport helicopters--worth Rs8 billion.

Under the category of Heavy Transport helicopters, it will buy two MI-17 under a government-to-government deal with Russia. The MI-17, which is considered feasible in a terrain like Nepal’s, is manufactured only in Russia and is used heavily across the world by the defence forces. Other four--two Medium Transport and two Light Transport--helicopters will, however, be procured through open bids.

The aircraft, according to the Army, will be used for search, rescue and distribution of relief during the disasters. “The Army lacks enough equipment including aircraft for disasters,” Defence Minister Bhimsen Das Pradhan told a press meet on Friday.

Chief of Army Staff General Rajendra Chhetri said pre-positioning of aircraft in different locations of the country will be done once the Army acquires the new ones. During his visit to the United States in April last year, the US government had pledged to provide the NA with four Sky Trucks within two years. Manufacturing of the aircraft has already begun, according to the Army.

The only functioning Sky Truck of the Army crashed at Kolti Airport in Bajura on May 30. The other being repaired by a Poland-based company is expected to come into operation soon.

According to Chhetri, based on the lessons from the devastating earthquakes in 2015, the Army had drafted a Rs21 billion plan to equip it for disaster preparedness. The plan has already been endorsed by the Cabinet and around Rs9 billion has been released so far. The Army currently owns 10 helicopters, including three MI-16s, one Super Puma, one Bell and one Écureuils and one fixed wing Islander.

The Army received the two Russia-made Mi-17 V-5 choppers on June 9, 2015 based on a deal reached on December 19, 2013. The defence force is also buying an advanced chopper for VIPs.

Published: 19-08-2017 07:51

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