Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 323, the first unit of the indigenously built ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter) Mk III aircraft, was commissioned into the Indian Navy by Union Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik on Monday at INS Hansa in Goa.
The squadron will operate three state-of-the-art ALH Mk III helicopters — a multi-role chopper with the Shakti engine manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Mk III version of the ALH has an all glass cockpit and will be used for search and rescue, special operations and coastal surveillance. Six ALHs are under procurement and all the aircraft are being delivered in a phased manner, the Navy said in a statement.
Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Naval Command, Vice Admiral R Hari Kumar, was also present at the ceremony. HAL Chairman and managing director R Madhavan said that 19 new systems based on the requirements of the Navy and the coast guard have been added to the ALH MK III aircraft.
The aircraft, a step up from Mk 1, will be able to mitigate low visibility during search and rescue operations even at night, naval officers said on Monday.
Flag Officer Commanding Goa Area, Rear Admiral Philipose G Pynumootil, said, “The radar will give us surveillance capability. The medical ICU was not there before. We used to evacuate patients from ships, for instance, and now there is an ICU capability within the aircraft. A 0.7 mm gun which will again give a huge capability from a LIMO (low intensity maritime operations) standpoint, there’s a megaphone, there are various things. The automatic flight control system is hugely superior to the previous one. There are various factors that will enhance all aspects of operations.”
“While the international tendency during the Covid-19 pandemic was to look inwards, India and Indian Navy have looked outwards. The Navy was a key instrument in India’s Covid outreach delivering assistance and support to our maritime neighbours and partners in the Indian Ocean Region,” said Naik.
With the rising number of Covid-19 infections in Mumbai, the headquarters of the Westen Naval Command (WNC) and in Goa, Vice Admiral Kumar said: “We are taking great care to ensure that the people who man the operational units like our ships, submarines and aircraft are safe. We have hardly any cases in these units and that is achieved by ensuring minimal contact, isolating the crew.” He said that many members of the crew are being quarantined when they return from leave and are allowed to resume only after they rest negative.