Whenever her husband, a Cheetah helicopter pilot from the Aviation Wing, flies, even on a routine outing, Meenal Bhonsle agrees to greet him. “It could be our last meeting, you never know,” she said. “It’s a traumatic day for me when he flies.
Over the years, Cheetahs, which dominate the Indian Army’s Light Helicopter (LUH) fleet, have become a nuisance. Last September, a Cheetah during of a routine sortie crashed at Patnitop in Jammu and Kashmir killing two army officers.
In February 2020, one crashed at Reasi area in Jammu; there is no In 2019, another crashed, killing two pilots, one from the Indian Army and the other from the Royal Bhutan Army, as they flew over Sikkim, on the border with China Very often there are no strategic highways such as Siachen, making the Cheetah a lifeline for India’s high-altitude operations.
The main workhorse of the Indian Army served areas high altitude in observation, surveillance, logistics and rescue roles, but the fleet has been plagued by frequent accidents and pr maintenance issues.The Army Aviation Corps and Air Force operate nearly 200 Cheetah helicopters.
There have been more than 30 accidents in recent years and nearly 40 personnel, including pilots, have died; many others were injured. Nearly 80% of these helicopters have survived their 30-year lifespan; the rest will pass the 50-year milestone in early 2022. In a 2015 internal communication, Army headquarters said Cheetah helicopters had virtually become “death traps”.