Two pilots were killed when an Army Cheetah helicopter crashed near Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh; an investigation has been launched.

On Thursday, two pilots were killed when an Army Aviation Cheetah helicopter crashed near Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh while on an operational sortie.

Officials have requested an investigation to determine the cause of the disaster.

Lt Col VVB Reddy and Major Jayanth A, the helicopter’s pilot and co-pilot, were killed in the crash.

Lt Col Reddy, 37, is survived by his wife, an Army dentist, and two daughters, ages four and six.

Major Jayanth, 35, leaves behind his wife, who lives in Missamari, Assam, where he was stationed.

According to the Army, the helicopter lost communication with ATC approximately 9.15 a.m., and five search parties from the Army, SSB, and ITBP were promptly dispatched. The plane’s wreckage was discovered near Banglajaap hamlet in Mandala.

The crash killed Lt Col VVB Reddy (left) and Maj Jayanth A. (PTI)

The Army said in a statement that a Court of Inquiry has been established to determine the cause of the disaster.

According to a Defence Ministry official, the helicopter took off from Missamari and picked up a senior Army officer near Bomdila. It was supposed to conduct a reconnaissance mission near Tawang. “But, as weather conditions deteriorated, the flight was cut short and the officer was dropped at Senge. “The mishap occurred as the chopper was returning to base,” an official stated.

According to another officer, the chopper was going downward when it crashed. “As cheetahs age, they require frequent upkeep. “Only the investigation will be able to determine the specific cause of the incident,” the official said.

The region is distinguished by rugged mountainous terrain, and the weather is frequently unpredictable, causing helicopter-flying operations to be called off at the last minute due to poor visibility.

The forces’ Chetak and Cheetah helicopters serve as lifelines in sea and extreme high-altitude zones, performing essential roles in observation, surveillance, logistics support, and rescue missions. The IAF also utilises them to teach pilots in its flying schools.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has constructed more than 275 Cheetahs and 350 Chetaks.

Nevertheless, the single-engine helicopters outlived their useful life more than a decade ago and have been plagued by serviceability concerns.

Issues include outdated avionics and navigation equipment, which increases the likelihood of control mishandling in the event of disorientation in turbulent weather, which is frequently unanticipated in the highlands.

The Army and IAF have been operating the Chetak and Cheetah helicopters, which are in desperate need of replacement as they represent the military’ lifeline in high-altitude zones. Nowadays, the Army has roughly 200 Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in service, and the IAF has about 120.

Between 2017 and 2022, over ten Army, Navy, and IAF Chetak and Cheetah helicopters crashed.

In March 2022, the administration informed Parliament that 42 Indian armed services personnel had been killed in 45 aircraft and helicopter crashes in the previous five years.

While the Military Forces have demanded modern helicopters to replace the Chetak and Cheetah fleets, progress on their purchase has been glacial.

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