INDIA: Two Indian Army pilots were killed after an Army “Cheetah” helicopter crashed near Mandala, west of Bomdila town, in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday, Army officials said.
The pilot and co-pilot, Lt. Col. VVB Reddy and Major Jayanth A, were on board. The helicopter, which was on an operational sortie, had taken off from Senge village in West Kameng district at 9 a.m. and was on its way to Missamari, Assam; it was estimated to reach there around 9:45 a.m.
The helicopter reportedly lost contact with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) at around 9.15 a.m. Information was received around 12:30 p.m. from the villagers of Bangjalep, in Dirang, who reported that a crash chopper was found and it was still burning.
After those 05-day search parties, the Army, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were immediately flung into action, Lt Col Mahendra Rawat, PRO Defense Guwahati, said.
The Indian Army has expressed its condolences to the families of the deceased pilots and has assured them of all necessary support during this difficult time.
The loss of two experienced and dedicated pilots is a huge blow to the Indian Army and the nation. Lt Col VVB Reddy had over 23 years of service and was a highly decorated officer, while Major Jayanth A had over ten years of experience and was known for his exceptional flying skills.
The Cheetah helicopter is a workhorse of the Indian Army, used extensively for reconnaissance and surveillance missions in difficult terrain. It is a lightweight helicopter that can operate at high altitudes and in adverse weather conditions.
Despite its capabilities, the Cheetah has been involved in several accidents in the past, leading to calls for its replacement with more modern and safer helicopters.
Around 200 Cheetah and Chetak helicopters with the IAF and the Army are in dire need of replacement, even as they form the lifeline of the forces in high-altitude areas.