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India Delivers 3 Cheetal Helicopters to Afghanistan

Saturday 25 April 2015

NEW DELHI (The Economic Times) – India has delivered three military helicopters to Kabul weeks ahead of the first visit by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to New Delhi since taking over charge. The three Cheetal helicopters, which are unarmed and have a utility role, have been ready for delivery with India since June last year but several deadlines were missed as the two nations were looking for an appropriate occasion for the handing over.

HAL Cheetal is a modernised variant of the French SA 315B Lama, fitted with the Turbomeca TM333-2M2. Speed is increased to 210 km/h and range is increased to 560 km. This single-engined helicopter by Sud Aviation (now Aérospatiale) has been developed to meet hot and high operational requirements of the Indian Armed Forces. It combines the lighter Aérospatiale Alouette II airframe with Alouette III components and powerplant.

Sources said India had been looking for a significant visit or occasion to send the helicopters over as a symbol of friendship to Afghanistan but several deadlines passed by due to a certain lack of response from the other side. The three helicopters, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), were to be earlier sent across in August while another deadline of December was also discussed.

However, it now seems that India sent the helicopters in a low key affair to Kabul earlier this month with Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh informing Parliament that they were quietly dispatched on 9 April. “These helicopters have been test flown and accepted by Afghanistan pilots on 15th April”, the minister said in a written reply to P. Nagarajan in Lok Sabha.

Afghan pilots and technicians have been trained on the helicopters that are suited for operations from high altitude regions as well as difficult terrain and unprepared landing areas.

Security related ties with Afghanistan have been on a low since Ghani took over last year. A much discussed weapons package for the nation — which involved both transfer of weapons, increasing the capacity of the Afghan forces by setting up maintenance centres and providing equipment through Russia — has since been blocked.

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