At present, Mi-17 helicopters are overhauled at No. 3 Base Repair Deport in Chandigarh

The Indian Air Force is outsourcing the repair and overhaul of its Russian-origin Mi-17V5 helicopters, which form the backbone of its medium-lift rotary component, to the private industry to overcome the shortfall in the IAF’s existing in-house capacity.

At present, the Mi-17 helicopters are overhauled at No.3 Base Repair Deport (BRD) in Chandigarh, which is the largest helicopter maintenance establishment for Soviet or Russian origin helicopters, including the older variants of the Mi-17 and the Mi-25/35 gunships.

“The IAF has a large fleet of Mi-17 helicopters comprising three variants, but the existing capacity of 3 BRD is limited and a significant number of the latest variant, the V5, have to be sent overseas for major overhaul,” an IAF officer said.

“Consequently, we are working towards roping in the private aviation industry in the country, having the requisite technical expertise and infrastructure to take up the project in collaboration with the IAF and Kazan Helicopters, the Russian firm manufacturing these helicopters,” he added. The entire overhaul process as mandated, after receiving the helicopter from the IAF to post-overhaul flight test till final acceptance by the IAF, will be the responsibility of the private firm.

The IAF reportedly operates over 220 Mi-17 helicopters that began entering service in 1991. These gradually replaced the earlier Mi-8 and are extensively used for tactical missions such as troops transport, assault, ferrying and air dropping supplies in remote areas, special operations, search and rescue and disaster management,

Established in 1962, 3 BRD has been repairing, overhauling, modifying and retrofitting the Mi-17 series, their engines and aggregates since 1991. The Depot also assembled and flight tested the V5 version after they were inducted in 2012. In 2019, a new assembly line became operational at the depot for overhauling the Mi-17V5.

In addition to the indigenization of various types of aero-spares to cut dependence on imports, the depot has also upgraded and modified helicopters to enhance their capability for meeting various operational requirements. Several such projects have been executed by the depot over the past years, including modifying five M-17V5s for VVIP transport to ferry the president, vice-president and the prime minister.

According to Air Force officers, the IAF operates about 150 of the latest V5 variant that are among the most advanced helicopters in the world, incorporating a complex navigation and electronic warfare suite. Like the earlier variants, they can also be armed with external rocket pods, missiles and machine guns. “Involving the private industry in the overhaul of these machines builds up national capability and promotes self reliance that can have long term benefits for the military as well as civilian aviation sector,” an IAF officer said.