Hyderabad: Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday called for fast-tracking the design and development of the 10-tonne Indian multirole helicopter. He was speaking at an event at the Air Force Station, Hakimpet, on Saturday, to mark 60 years of service of the Chetak helicopter with the Indian Air Force.
"According to an estimate, there is a demand for more than 1,000 civilian helicopters in the country and an equal number of helicopters in the defence sector. We need to exploit this huge potential," Rajnath Singh said. "We need to make efforts to strengthen India's claim in the rotary wing domain."
He noted that the era was changing. "I am sure that in the times to come we will be strong and completely self-reliant. Earlier, the country was dependent on imports. This government believes in strengthening our own shoulders to protect ourselves. We are making sure that India is not dependent on anyone," he said.
Earlier this week, the defence forces purchased 15 India-made Dhruv, the Advanced Light Helicopters. The defence minister called them examples of the country's strength and capability to manufacture light helicopters for combat operations.
Singh said that by being strong, India does not mean to establish dominance in the world. India has always followed the path of truth, non-violence and peace and does not support aggression of any kind, he said.
The Chetak (Alouette III), manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) from 1962, is a two-tonne helicopter that can seat seven persons. It is stated to be a versatile, multi-role, multi-purpose helicopter.
The helicopter is suitable for commuting, cargo and material transport, casualty evacuation, search and rescue, aerial rurvey and patrolling and emergency medical services. Rajnath Singh compared the helicopter to the horse of the legendary Rana Pratap.
Rajnath Singh said the Chetak, through adaptation, modification and upgradation, remained a frontline platform even after six decades of its creation. He noted that nearly 700 Chetaks had been manufactured so far.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhuri, senior serving and retired officers of the helicopter stream from the three services and officials of ministry of defence, Indian Coast Guard and HAL were present on the occasion.
Rajnath Singh said the Chetak had proved its mettle in the battlefield by targeting enemies with accuracy and successfully landing troops. "It has also helped in delivering essential logistics and also saved precious lives through its evacuation efforts in case of emergency."
To mark the occasion, the Indian Air Force had a flypast of the Chetaks and other aircraft, including one over prominent landmarks of the city by the Suryakiran aerobatics team.