Amid proposals for using helicopters for movement of paramilitary forces during anti-Naxal operations, the IAF has suggested to the government that its 15 choppers deputed for UN peacekeeping forces may be called back as it has constraints of resources.
The IAF has made it clear that it has no reservation in helping police and paramilitary forces in evacuation but is hard-pressed for helicopters as most of them are deployed for various operational requirements.
The Air Force has told the government that if it were to assist in anti-Naxal operations, it would require more helicopters, Defence Ministry sources told PTI. In this context, it has suggested that the 15 MI-17 helicopters deputed for UN peacekeeping missions in three African countries may be called back, they said.
"The option of calling back the choppers from foreign duties is still under consideration of the government," the sources added.
The IAF has a fleet of medium-lift Mi-17 and Mi-8 helicopters, which are used for maintenance of troops in high altitude areas of Jammu and Kashmir and North East and to carry out relief and rescue missions during natural disasters.
The Home Ministry has proposed that IAF should provide helicopters for quick deployment and evacuation of paramilitary forces during anti-Naxal operations that may be carried out in inaccessible areas.
The proposal is currently before the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is yet to take a final view.
Use of the Air Force for combat has been ruled out because of the risk of collateral damage.
The Defence forces are not inclined to get involved in combat operations against Naxals and want to leave it to police and paramilitary forces.
At the same time, the IAF has kept four MI-17s in Raipur on standby in case these may be required for evacuation purposes in anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh. PTI