Kathmandu: A debate has started within Nepal’s defence establishment to revamp its air assets after almost 40 per cent of its helicopters remained non- operational due to poor maintenance during the rescue and relief operations following the April 25 quake.
“Yes, the air assets need to be strengthened. If that happens it would not only be easy for us but also for people, especially after the experience (after earthquake),” Brigadier General Jagdish Chandra Pokhrel, Department of Public Relations of Nepal Army said told PTI.
“We will convey to our political leadership about the impending issues (of the air assets),” he said.
The limitation of its air assets came to the fore especially during carrying out rescue and relief operations in the quake hit nation.
However, the respite came after countries like India, China and the US deployed their air assets.
Nepal does not have its own air force, but has an aviation wing under the aegis of the army. It has around 36 airfields that support its military operations.
Air assets play a crucial role for this landlocked country.
It not only plays an important role in conducting surveillance of border areas and interior parts, but it serves as a major link in far-flung hilly areas to provide people with necessary items and during medical emergency.
During the emergency, air forces of different countries helped rescue people, ferry them and drop and drop relief material in far flung areas, supplementing the air operations of Nepal army.
Other countries like India, China or the US has a fleet of a particular make of aircraft/ helicopters, but Nepal has an array of air assets sourced from different countries.
Army sources said having air assets of different make does create a problem at times as it involves training of pilots for a specific make.
Similar is the issue with the maintenance as units have to be sent to a different company.
“Yes, at times it does become an issue. But we are wary of depending on a single company or a country. This could be critical to us,” Pokhrel said.
Nepal has around 23 air assets. However, as per the data, until May 8, of the 23 air assets only 11 were operational.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper