Punjab to buy Russian chopper worth Rs1.4 bn

LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided to purchase a Russian-made MI-17 helicopter worth Rs1.4 billion for the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) to combat terrorists’ activities in the province.

Documents available with The News reveal that the decision on the purchase of the helicopter was made during a meeting of high-level committee chaired by Punjab Chief Secretary Khizar Hayat Gondal on February 27. IGP Mushtaq Sukhera, Special Secretary Home Dr Shoaib Akhtar, Special Secretary Finance Ahmad Raza Sarwar, Additional IG CTD Rai Tahir, Additional IG Finance & Planning Sohail Khan, Chief Pilot Aviation Flight Col (retd) Safdar Malik, Deputy Commander Army Aviation School Gujranwala Col Naeem Masood Khan, PAF Wing Commander Aftab Iqbal and Assistant IG Logistics Shariq Kamal attended the meeting.

Chief Secretary Khizar Hayat Gondal said after detailed discussions regarding the specification and utility of the machines, the MI-17 would be purchased for the CTD to counter the terrorists’ activities in the province, as majority of the participants were in favour of purchasing the Russian-made machine. He said under the delegation of powers, the IG Police has full powers of purchase. The IG Police can initiate the process of purchase of the helicopter for the CTD after the approval of chief minister.

After the decision of the committee regarding the purchase of MI-17 helicopter, the IG Police submitted a summary to the chief minister for his approval. Earlier, briefing the meeting, Additional IG Finance & Planning explained the characteristics and specifications of MI-17 and BELL-412. He said both the machines have two engines, while MI-17 has the capacity to carry 28 passengers and BELL-412 has capacity for 14 passengers. Maximum take off weight of MI-17 is 1,300 kg, useful load capacity 4,000 kg, laying of casualties 12, service ceiling 18,000 ft, landing ceiling 14,400 ft, range 465 km, estimated cost Rs1.4 billion, airframe life 9,000 hrs, and engine first overhaul 2,000 hrs.

Maximum take off capacity of BELL-412 is 5,398 kg, useful load capacity 2,250 kg, laying of casualities four, service ceiling 18,700 ft, landing ceiling 10,300 ft, estimated cost Rs1.35 billion, range 396 km, unlimited airframe life, and engine first overhaul 4,400 hrs.

Chief pilot Safdar Malik was of the view that carrying capacity of BELL-412 EP helicopter, at high temperature, may not be sufficient even to carry the minimum required number of personnel. He further stated that performance of MI-17 series helicopter remains constant at different altitudes.

However, performance of Bell-412 EP helicopter drops down at high altitude; he said and observed that machine-gun mounting will further reduce the carrying capacity of the helicopter. The MI-17 series could carry bullet-proof vehicles. He suggested the purchase of MI-17 helicopter for the CTD.

Col Naeem Masood was of the view that utility of BELL-412 EP in urban areas is better than that of MI-17, because the Russian-made machine is bigger in size and its maneuverability in congested areas is an issue. In case of BELL-412 EP, the helicopter pilots have to shed fuel tanks at times for enhancing the carrying capacity of the machine. However, he said keeping in view the characteristics of both the machines, he was in favour of BELL-412 EP helicopter.

Wing Commander Aftab Iqbal was of the view that BELL-412 EP helicopter had to be refueled in case of long distance flights. Time factor is very important in the combat/rescue operations and time will be lostin case of refueling of machine as it will have to be switched off while refueling. He was in favour of purchasing the MI-17 helicopter.

Special Secretary Home Dr Shoaib Akbar opined that keeping in view of the task requirements, he was in favour of the MI-17 helicopter.

Special Secretary Finance Ahmad Sarwar and IGP Mushtaq Sukhera opined that helicopter to be purchased may have to perform multiple tasks, including rescue, air surveillance during long processions, combat operations. The carrying capacity of the machine should also be kept in view while making any decision regarding the purchase of helicopter. They also were in favour of purchasing an MI-17 for this purpose.

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