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Indian Aviation Contingent - I (IAC-I)


MONUC was the third major contribution of the IAF under UN flag. As the situation in North-East Congo was turning grave with repeated massacres and killings of innocent civilians; international community decided to strengthen its military presence. India contributed armed helicopters and utility helicopters in the Congolese provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. The IAF unit in Goma/Bunia was called the Indian Aviation Contingent (IAC-I) and the major lodger units included one Mi-25 Squadron and one Mi-17 squadron. These squadrons were equipped with four Mi-25 aircraft and five Mi-17 helicopters respectively along with aircrew and ground support personnel. This invaluable asset increased the MONUC's sphere of influence in the Eastern DRC and UN forces were been able to reach areas that had hitherto been outside its sphere of influence. In addition to this enhancement of sphere of operation, the arrival of IAC 1, followed by IAC2 and 3 also conferred upon MONUC a high degree of firepower both in North Kivu and Ituri province. This firepower in turn conferred upon MONUC an ability to deter various rebel groups who now feared retribution from the skies.



The first time when an IAF squadron was led in the volatile situation of Congo was in the sixties. The unit had six Canberra B (I) MK-58 fighter aircraft with aircrew and ground support personnel. The Squadron was commanded by Wing Commander AIK Suares. India inducted these aircraft through a long haul over the Gulf countries and Africa commencing their long flights from Agra on 09 Oct 1961.

After arriving at Congo, the Canberra team started their mission by adopting an intensive flying programme. The Squadron was given its area of responsibility over southern Katanga province aligned with the Indian forces. The Canberras practiced low level (500 feet) and night flying over the area of operations. This also enabled the UN to show their robust presence with a show of UN flag.

In August 1961, the Indian Brigade Group had launched 'Operation RUMPUNCH' against the foreign mercenaries creating law and order problems in Katanga province. These mercenaries were instrumental in declaration of secession of this province and creating an impasse in the peace process. The Canberras started their operations in 1961 by attacking and destroying certain mercenary position in strategically significant town of Kolwezi. The rebels had a substantial air element comprised of old aircraft which posed a great danger to UN freedom of movement in the area. The Squadron was given the task to locate and destroy this element. IAF operations commenced in Leopoldville and Kamina and within a short time rebel air forces were incapacitated. The Canberras repeatedly raided Katangan targets and were instrumental in providing much needed long range fire support to the UN ground forces. At times the targets were at a distance of 1000 km with an intense cloud cover over the way points. The Indian pilots used many ingenious methods to lead themselves to the targets. They intensively used a lake, which was a prominent mark to the west of Kolwezi and then used good old map reading over the final leg to the airfield, using the Green Satin airborne navigation aid.

Wing Commander Suares was the first to carry out the daring yet risky engagement profile using 20 mm cannon. This was followed by another attack by Flight Lieutenant Gautam, thus destroying the Fouga Magister aircraft. By the efforts of these two officers, the IAF was able to establish a near air supremacy over the skies of Elizabethville and Kamina.

Wing Commander Suares and his team persisted with their offensive air support over Kolwezi, based on the requirements of UN forces in the area. After locating rebel positions, the Squadron carried out a show of force by low level flying over the main target area and also engaged the rebels with cannon fire. After testing rebel reaction capability, a deliberate offensive action was taken by Flight Lieutenant Dushyant Singh, who raided the rebel hideout in a post office area. The Canberras were welcomed by a strong anti-aircraft firing from the rebels. The distraction by the leading aircraft allowed other Canberras in the same attack to destroy road convoys, ammunition dumps and other key locations captured by the rebel forces. In the weeks following these attacks, the Squadron made many such operational sorties around Elizabethville. In the next few weeks, the Canberras also carried out armed reconnaissance sorties, engaging rebel lines of communications. The Squadron had an added capacity of photo reconnaissance, which was made full use of by the ground forces. This included both photographic and visual reports on the conditions of bridges in rebel held territory; movement of the rebel forces and their concentrations.



INDIAN AVIATION CONTINGENT-I

The personnel of this contingent were rotated every 12 months. A total of five rotations were made. The contingent undertook simultaneous operations from two bases i.e. ex Goma for 2 x Mi 25 and 5 x Mi 17 while a permanent detachment operated ex Bunia for 2 x Mi 25 aircraft. During its deployment IAC-I had achieved an elderly status among the various contingents deployed in Goma, being the oldest and most battle hardy. It saw the conflict moving in its characteristic sine curve manner wherein the fighting and peace alternated almost every month. The environment for operating in such a complex scenario called for a range of innovative operational SOPs and survival strategies. In fact, majority of validation of helicopter combat tactics against ground threats were achieved through the lessons learnt in this foreign theatre. IAC-I was successfully led by the following Contingent Commanders:

Name
From
To
Gp Capt KS Gill VM 13 Jul 03 12 Aug 04
Gp Capt DS Ahluwalia 13 Aug 04 25 Sep 05
Gp Capt Ajith Kumar VM 26 Sep 05 28 Apr 06
Gp Capt A Guru VrC 29 Apr 06 15 Sep 06
Gp Capt S Neelkantan YSM VM 26 Sep 06 17 Oct 07
Gp Capt NJS Dhillon 18 Oct 07 24 Oct 08
Gp Capt Ravi Bhate 25 Oct 08 02 Dec 09
Gp Capt AK Nabh VM 02 Dec 09 04 Oct 10



Mi-17 Squadron formed the utility helicopter component of IAC-I and its tasking included troop insertion/extraction, casualty evacuation, disarmament, demobilization and resettlement (DDR) support, logistics supply, search and rescue, observation and reconnaissance. Their span of control passed over the Equator and they flew more than 13000 sorties and 8000 flight hours during their operations. These helicopters were also exclusively responsible for the induction and extraction of UN troops. The IAC also assisted various DRC/foreign troops including troops from Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Uruguay, and Guatemala in their ground operations. On 26 Oct 08, One Mi 17 mission of IAC was involved in a daring Casevac of a Portuguese lady from Rutshuru in the face of heavy enemy firing all around the helipad area without the basic support of ATS services at either of the locations. This act was well appreciated by the SRSG of MONUC, Mr. Alan Doss. Workhorses of IAC-I have been led by the following Commanding officers:

Name
From
To
Wg Cdr R Isser VM 13 Jul 03 12 Aug 04
Wg Cdr SS Kothari VM 13 Aug 04 25 Sep 05
Wg Cdr N Santosh 26 Sep 05 04 Sep 06
Wg Cdr RK Chauhan VM 05 Sep 06 17 Oct 07
Gp Capt RA Maslekar 18 Oct 07 26 Oct 08
Wg Cdr HS Kulkarni 27 Oct 07 02 Ded 09
Wg Cdr S Srivastava 02 Dec 09 04 Oct 10



The MI 25 sqadron formed the cutting edge of IAC-I and was instrumental in restoring peace and stability in North Kivu and Ituri regions of DRC. The roles of Vipers included Armed recce and surveillance, Fire support to heliborne forces during critical phases of flight and Armed escort to UN aircraft and ground forces. The span of operations of Vipers spread across the jungles and inaccessible regions of eastern DRC. During their deployment the unit clocked more than 5000 flight hours. This bunch of aggressive professional have been led by the following commanding officers over the years:

Name
From
To
Wg Cdr Sunil Kumar 01 Aug 03 12 Aug 04
Wg Cdr TS Sareen 13 Aug 04 21 Sep 05
Wg Cdr MC Mishra 22 Sep 05 04 Sep 06
Gp Capt J James 05 Sep 06 01 Oct 07
Wg Cdr P Maheshwar 02 Oct 07 26 Oct 08
Gp Capt NN Reddy 27 Oct 08 02 Ded 09
Gp Capt AS Pathania 02 Dec 09 04 Oct 10



IAC-I was at the forefront of all the offensive support and humanitarian tasks of MONUC during its deployment. The number of operations undertaken to handle battlehardy rebels exceeded more than 30. The following are the indicators of the professional performance of the IAC-I over the years:
(a) The major operations in which the IAC-I took part were Op North Nationalism, Op North Necktie, Op North Nuclide, Sake Ops, Regular Casevac, Mounting of HOBs, Helicopter landed Aerial Domination Patrol Missions (HLADP Missions) and Ituri engraver. These operations ensured time and again that the vital towns of eastern DRC did not fall to the negative forces.

(b) More than 18000 accident free sorties were flown in the inhospitable terrains of DRC.

(c) Search and Rescue. One UN Russian Mi-8 crashed on 18 Dec 07 at Rubaya while on a routine mission from Goma to Walikale. The Contingent immediately launched two Mi- 17s for search and rescue of the crashed ac. The first heptr located the crash site, winched up the critical casualties including one dead body. The second heptr picked up the remaining six personnel in a low hover. The rescue effort was executed in a precise manner and was indeed praiseworthy as both the heptrs hovered at high altitude for long durations.

(d) To increase the presence of MONUC troops inside the negative forces controlled area, Bde HQ felt an urgent need to establish few helicopter operated bases at Ngungu, Rubaya, Osso Farm, Mushake, Nyabiondo and Kashuga. To establish and maintain these HOBs, the Contingent flew more than 1000 sorties carrying close to 2000 personnel and 1500 tons of load.

(e) During Ituri Engraver at Bunia, Mi-25s played a key role. This Operation was launched to flush out FRPI militias by providing aerial cover to MONUC ground forces. Towards this Ops, Mi-25s flew more than 1000 hrs. The action turned on LRA rebels in Ituri region and FDLR in Goma region.

(f) In Nov 08 IAC-I received a request from a few rebel FDLR soldiers to surrender their arms. Generally, these kind of requests were made to humanitarian agencies of UN, but this act of the rebel groups shows the confidence in IAC-I in handling such complex humanitarian tasks.

(g) IAC-I regularly took on humanitarian tasks through personal contributions like distributing books and sports gear to orphans to build up goodwill among the local populace.




Rules of Engagement
(a) Correct identification of the target
(b) No friendly troops/civilians in the vicinity
(c) No collateral damage
(d) Ascertaining hostile intent



Arrival of Rot-V at Goma
Welcome party to Rot-V
Handing over taking over parade on 25 Oct 08
Rum punch for Rot- IV on 24 Oct 08
First aid lecture on 08 Oct 08
SEA lecture by SMO on 17 Oct 08
COE Inspection on 10 Nov 08
7 Surrender on 14 Nov 08
Visit of Def Min Uganda on 21 Nov 08
Tambola on 30 Nov 08
Volley ball match on 28 Nov 08
Chief Air TPT Visit on 04 Dec 08
Id Barakhana on 08 Dec 08
Rum punch on 13 Dec 08
Volley ball match on 23 Dec 08
Congolese boys performing on Christmas Eve
Beautiful decoration on Christmas Eve celebration
Carol singing on Christmas Eve celebration
Cdr and Santa cutting cake on Christmas Eve celebration
URUBAT performing on Christmas Eve celebration
Cdr and Santa with participants on Christmas Eve celebration
Accts Sec COE inspection
Cdr meeting the teams before cricket match on 21 Dec 08 celebration
Cricket match on 21 Dec 08

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