India made Dhruv derived weaponized Rudra Attack Gunship

by Barshan Karmakar

On Sunday, 4th April 2021, around 22 CRPF personnel have been reported to be killed, with 32 injured one soldier missing. Now, it has been a long time since the personnel of our paramilitary forces have to fight out operations against the Naxalites in the Red Corridor. The results of these operations have been both successful as well as quite shattering too at some times. But, following this incident, the CRPF officials and the top-brass of our national Security Council are of the view to initiate, air-operations against the Naxalites.

But at the same time, various factors are being looked upon, starting from the available options to the area of tactical and natural factors as well. An important and most distracting factor that hinders the security forces to use heavy weapons in this area is the obstructions posed by the Human Rights and Environmental activists. As Chhattisgarh is considered to be a stronghold of Naxalites, its natural condition also aids in a way. It contains Tropical Deciduous Forests that shed their leaves during the Autumn season and in local terms, they are known as 'Patjharivan'. It thereby, gives a clear visibility on that time, which makes it easy to conduct any kind of operations, and air operations can be easy to perform. But, it always doesn't signify that visibility can be clear, for which the requirement of thermal cameras can be felt.

In the past air operations have been carried out as well but those were mostly of relief nature, the Mil Mi-17 choppers had been used as air-ambulances. But this time air operations are being looked as an alternative. Also, at the same time, the available options along with their suitability need to be checked for conducting such operations. Close fights are quite often held against the Maoists from nearby proximity, and the conformity of these types of fights will come only then when the enemy's presence is located to be at a close range. A challenge, in this case, can come at a time, if there are ground operations by the Maoists, and a helicopter being detected to be flying, and then they can either be able to retreat from their area of operation or take cover. In this case, they will not be able to sustain air operations for a long time with a successful outcome.

In this case, 4 major options have been considered, which are analysed below:

The use of Drones can be better, because of its high altitude flight and stealth technology will help it for both ensuring surveillance and attack. But in times of guerrilla warfare, if it fires a weapon from proximity and a particular height it can injure the friendly units, as in times of ground operations use of drones may pose a risk. Drones can be used successfully if the operational units have data regarding the position of the Naxalites.

Due to natural disruptions, the use of heavy weapons or faster aircraft won't serve the purpose of attacking from proximity, keeping in mind the need for accuracy; thermal imaging can be of great help to spot the enemy positions.

The Mil Mi-35 'Hind' attack helicopters of the Indian Air Force can be an ideal option, as it has undergone an upgrade in Israel with new IR and CCD cameras. It contains a 12.7 mm turret gun that is capable to be fired from any direction, along with 6 hardpoints that can carry a 23-30 mm guns-cum-rocket pods. It is the fastest attack helicopter that has not been much used in combat roles; it has never served the need of the Air Force to fight high altitude operations with service ceiling being quite less. But if considered it can serve a good purpose in Chhattisgarh.

The HAL LCH or Rudra can also be considered for such a role, as the LCH has a 20 mm M621 mounted gun turret that can fire from any direction, 70 mm rockets and is able to move faster. It also has an Albeit-compass turret with a CCD camera and IR sensor.

If the CRPF is looking for a budget free opportunity, then the light and faster HAL Lancer helicopters can be considered a good option. It is mounted with two gun-cum-rocket pods, which has a 12.7 mm gun with three 70 mm rockets, which can prove to be a lethal weapon against the enemy. The CRPF can keep this as an option for anti-Naxal operations.

Another option can be sought if considered with prime importance for the future. The HAL HTT-40 basic trainer, which is to be improvised and is now under trials with the armed variant being under planning. The HTT-40 has a 950 horsepower engine that makes it capable to run at a speed of 450 kmph enabling the aircraft to conduct reconnaissance mission for a long time. Making it capable to fly at high altitude and attack in times of need.

At the same time, if we compare the HTT-40 with the A-29 Super Tucano, it can have one machine gun, each at its wings, and 70 mm rockets along with CCD and IR camera turrets. Having these kinds of specifications, the A-29 can be a good Light Combat Aircraft to perform quick surveillance operations by providing air support in times of need.

Therefore, looking at this aspect air operation can be performed, if needed as it has a major tactical reason behind it. But at the same time, these environmental and human rights activists needs to be tackled by the state, citing major reasons for security threats. As environmental protection can be important, but not at the cost of lives and the nation’s sovereignty or peace.

Barshan Karmakar tracks military and aerospace issues closely. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN