Nepali Army launches new helicopters

KATHMANDU: The operation of two newly-procured MI-17V-5 helicopters that Nepali Army had recently brought from Russia started on Monday.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who looks after the defence portfolio as well, inaugurated the operation of the two choppers — with call signs of NA-056 and NA-057— amid a function at Nepali Army’s Aviation Rotary Wing at Tribhuvan International Airport.

The helicopters first flew to earthquake-hit Jharlang VDC of Dhading with relief materials along with Prime Minister Koirala and other dignitaries. Koirala distributed relief materials to quake survivors of every ward in remote Jharlang VDC before returning to Kathmandu today.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bam Dev Gautam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Development Prakash Man Singh, Chief of Army Staff General Gaurav SJB Rana, among other senior government authorities, had accompanied PM Koirala to Jharlang.

NA said the helicopters had boosted it aviation wing and would enhance air mobility.

An NA team led by Director General of Air Directorate of NA Major General Satish Bikram Shah had visited Russia last month for initial acceptance and to check the condition of the twin-turbine transport helicopters.

The Baburam Bhattarai-led government, in February 2013, had decided to release US$ 30 million for purchase of the helicopters. It is the largest logistics purchase of the army after Maoists joined mainstream politics in 2006.

NA said the choppers with 2,000-hour flight capacity were night-vision compatible. Their cockpits are said to be pilot-friendly and well-equipped to conduct immediate embussing, debussing and evacuation.

They are lighter in weight than the choppers currently being used by NA and have an ultimate life of 25 years, according to a statement issued by NA.

A four-member Russian technical team will stay in Nepal to regularly examine the choppers till completion of one year or 300 flight hours, whichever is earlier, it added.

The two choppers were built in Kazan Helicopter Plant in Russia and can be used for both civil as well as military transportation purposes.