Army Aviation History
In 1947, at the time of independence, Pakistan inherited four fabric covered Auster airplanes. These were part of an “Air Observation Post Squadron”, which was deployed in Lahore in support of Punjab Boundary Commission. These four Auster aircrafts were grouped in Chaklala as 1st Air Observation Post flight forming the nucleus of Pakistan Army Aviation Corps.
The first important acquisition of Army Aviation was the induction of L-19s in 1958 and OH-13s which were received after the Korean conflict as part of US Aid. 1960s saw induction of Alloutte-III from France and MI-8s from Russia. With the enhanced canvas now possible, the induction of pilots which was being made from Artillery alone was made open to all arms. It became a separate Corps in 1977.
The next important land mark was the induction of Puma Cargo helicopters from France in 1978 and yet another major leap was the Combat Group raised through 20 Cobra helicopters received from USA in 1985. The decade of nineties saw induction of MI-17 helicopters from Russia.
Army Aviation today has a reckonable fleet poised for a definite and critical role be it peace or war.
Army Aviation Role
Army Aviation provides mainly four types of aviation support during operations of the field Army, namely composite or light aircraft support, cargo, combat and high altitude support. Composite support is available at all times, however, availability of cargo and combat support subjects to Army’s overall plans.
Light Aircraft Support
Composite squadron integral to each corps comprises single engine fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. Tasking of these aircrafts is
- Conduct Artillery shoots as authorized observers
- Command and liaison
- Act as Airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC)
- Battle field surveillance
- Casualty evacuation
Cargo Aviation Support
The Cargo Aviation Support comprises cargo helicopters mainly the Pumas and MI-17s. The cargo Aviation support includes the following
- Shifting of troops, heavy weapons and equipment to the most threatened sectors
- Heliborne and anti heliborne operations in support of offensive and defensive operations
- Support to Aviation Combat Group to establish Aerial Forward Area Arming and Refueling Point (FAARP)
- Specialized transfrontier operations to include raids, ambushes etc
- Electronic Warfare Operations
Combat Aviation Support
The Combat Aviation Support comprises the combination of Attack (Cobras) and Scout helicopters (Jet Rangers) grouped into combat flights in a Combat Squadron. The two combat squadrons form part of Aviation Combat Group.
High Altitude Support
Alouette-III helicopter of French origin was inducted in mid sixties to support the construction of Karakuram Highway. This helicopter proved extremely effective in Northern and AK areas. Siachin conflict, however, confronted Army Aviation with altitudes, where Alouette-III helicopter was stretched to the maximum limits of its capabilities and its load carrying capacity reduced tremendously. A need was felt to induct a suitable high altitude helicopter. Induction of Lama and MI-17 helicopters significantly enhanced Aviation support to troops deployed in high altitudes. However, Alouette-III and Puma helicopters are still operating upto 4000 and 6000 meters respectively. This high altitude aviation support mainly includes:-
- Shifting of guns/engineer equipment/ radars etc
- Shifting of troops
- Casualty evacuation
- Command and liaison
Army Aviation in Support of Friendly Countries
Aviation support has been extended to the friendly countries on numerous occasions for enhancing the friendly ties. Some of these missions are as under
In 1976, on the eve of independence of Mozambique, technical support of pilots, engineers and maintenance persons were despatched to Mozambique for making their helicopters airworthy and training of their pilots / technicians
2 x UH-1H helicopters along with 6 x pilots and 10 x maintenance persons were sent to Bangladesh for Cyclone Relief operations in 1991
- May 1971 2 x Alouette-III helicopters along with flying and maintenance crew were sent to Sri Lanka in May 1971 to assist them in fighting the insurgency
- SARRC Submit An Aviation contingent comprising Alouette-III helicopters, 5 x officers and 8 x technicians proceeded to support the Sri Lankan government during SAARC Summit in 1993