PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (DEFENCE WING)
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
IAF CONTINGENT FOR UN PEACE KEEPING MISSION AT CONGO FLAGGED OFF
New Delhi: 18 Jun 2009
With the national tricolour and India emblazoned on their blue uniforms, 285 IAF air warriors swapped their regular grey ‘side caps’ with the distinct ‘blue beret’ worn by UN peacekeepers worldwide, to form part of the Indian UN Peace Keeping Mission that leaves for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on June 20. The IAF saga of contributing to UN peace-keeping missions began when IAF sent a flight of Canberra bomber aircraft as part of the United Nations Operations in Congo (ONUC), in 1962.
Air Officer-in-Charge Maintenance (AOM), Air Marshal KM Rama Sundara flagged-off the Indian Aviation Contingent-II, today from Palam. “You are the ambassadors of peace and the Nation has very high expectations from you in terms of discipline, integrity and professional standards”, he said while addressing the contingent, led by Group Captain Manavendra Singh. “Your predecessors have set high standards and you should aim to achieve even higher standards”, AOM told the team members.
The present IAF contingent is effecting a fourth rotation and replaces an earlier team sent a year back. The contingent will operate six Mi-17 utility helicopters and four Mi-35 attack helicopters from Bukavu, in eastern DRC. Currently the IAF operates two aviation contingents from DRC, the other being stationed at Goma. DRC, it may be mentioned has been in a state of turmoil since it attained freedom in 1960. Indian Armed Forces have been contributing to peace missions in the strife-torn state ever since and have proved instrumental in bringing semblance of normalcy to the state.
The twin purpose of the contingent is to provide mobility to the UN staff and forces, while also acting as a deterrent for the belligerent groups trying to destabilize the peace process. Mi-17s would be primarily used for troop insertion and extraction, casualty evacuation, logistic supply, search and rescue, reconnaissance and observation. The primary role for the Mi-35 helicopter, equipped with night targeting system, would be offensive armed support as escort, and independent offensive operations.
Listing out his priorities on reaching Bukavu, Group Captain Manavendra says,” Among the first tasks is the familiarization of the area and taking charge of the area, getting to know the UN people and operational tasks”. The contingent comprises IAF personnel of diverse specializations including helicopter pilots. “All my pilots are categorized and their flying qualifications revalidated”, he added. Other members include those from the logistics, technical, medical services and pay and accounts.
Life at the air base in Sukavu under field conditions is modelled on the lines of regular Air Force bases that exist in India. Apart from a six-bedded hospital, facilities such as a gymnasium, games equipment, internet, ISD, library, movies, music et al – all other IAF activities such as drill, physical training will form part of the daily routine during their stay period, the Contingent Commander said.
Among other senior IAF officials who were present at the flag-off ceremony included Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (ACAS) Operations (Transport & Helicopter), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) M Bahadur, and Air Officer Commanding, Air Force Station, New Delhi, Air Commodore Ajit Bhonsle.