IAF set to Overhaul Mi-26 Copters at Chandigarh Airbase with Russian Assistance

India Defense

IAF set to Overhaul Mi-26 Copters at Chandigarh Airbase with Russian Assistance

After languishing on the ground for an extended period due to a lack of overhaul, the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet of Soviet-origin Mi-26 heavy lift helicopters is poised for a rejuvenation. The revitalization process is set to take place at the No.3 Base Repair Depot (BRD) in Chandigarh, facilitated by Russian assistance.

Recent developments include a visit by a team of Russian experts to 3 BRD to finalize the project modalities. According to a senior IAF officer, the expectation is that the formalization of agreements will occur within three months, with the complete overhaul anticipated to conclude approximately a year after the contract signing.

Traditionally, the Mi-26 helicopters were sent to Russia for overhauls. However, logistical delays in recent years led to the expiration of their technical life, rendering them inoperable. The decision to overhaul them in India, with components requiring repair sent to Russia, emerged as the most viable option after evaluating various possibilities, including shipping the helicopters back to Russia.

Having been in service since 1985, the Mi-26 fleet faced grounding in phases, with the first helicopter grounded in 2013, followed by the others in 2014 and 2017.

The revived Mi-26 helicopters are expected to significantly enhance the IAF vertical heavy lift capability, working alongside the Chinooks. This capability will prove crucial for airlifting personnel and equipment to forward locations. Some IAF officers noted the absence of the Mi-26 capabilities during the build-up along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh after the 2020 confrontation with China. During the 1999 Kargil conflict, these helicopters played a pivotal role in airlifting Bofors howitzers and other war equipment to strategic locations.

The Mi-26 boasts an impressive capacity to airlift up to 20 tons of payload, comparable to the C-130 Super Hercules transport aircraft. It can also transport heavy vehicles such as trucks and bulldozers within its fuselage. In contrast, the Chinook can airlift up to 12 tonnes and ferry lighter vehicles, artillery guns, and other equipment in the underslung mode.

While acknowledging the Mi-26 expensive maintenance, military authorities underscore its invaluable service in both military operations and civil assistance during natural disasters. Over the years, these helicopters have efficiently airlifted artillery guns, heavy equipment, and construction machinery to high-altitude areas and remote regions across the country.

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