At around 1430 hrs, on 23 Sep 18, a request was received at Airforce Station Sarsawa from the State Govt of Himachal, for the rescue of personnel struck due to incessant rains at Kullu. Beas river had swelled and as a result of which small islets were formed in the river wherein people were stranded.
One MLH class of helicopter was launched from the Mighty Armour unit of Western Air Command, based at Sarsawa. The helicopter was piloted by Squadron Leader Vipul Gupta with Sqn Ldr Dhiman as the co-pilot. The helicopter reached the spot and found 19 people stranded on an islet on the swelling Beas river. The pilot brought the helicopter to a low hover and the crew helped the stranded people into the aircraft. They were then flown to the local airfield of Bhuntar.
On 24 Sep 18 two youths were spotted on another small strip of land in the river. The helicopter, which was available at Bhuntar was launched and these two stranded people were winched up since there was no place for the heptr to land.
The helicopter and its crew have been instructed to wait at Bhuntar airstrip should any other rescue be required.
“Today restricted space, high winds speed, High tension cables and tall trees precluded the chance of landing hence we had to winch the two people. All rescued were reported to be safe and fine. We are on standby for any further requirements” said Squadron Leader Vipul Gupta.
On 24 Dec 18 at 1040 hrs Western Air Command of Indian Air force launched two Cheetah helicopters, of the Udhampur based unit “HOVERING HAWKS '' to carry out casualty evacuation from Chanderkot helipad on a short notice. As per initial information received a civil bus on move from Badgam to Kanpur fell into the valley near Ramban which led to several critical casualties. At 1045 hrs, 02 heptrs and 02 set of crew were standby to takeoff from Udhampur to Chanderkot helipad where the casualties were initially evacuated. On getting a go ahead for one heptr at 1050 hrs, Wg Cdr V Mehta as captain with co-pilot Arunima Vidhate got airborne from Udhampur. Meanwhile after ascertaining the requirement, on the call of Wg Cdr V Mehta, second heptr got airborne from Udhampur with Sqn Ldr SK Prasad as captain and Flt Lt Siddhant Yadav as co-pilot.
First heptr landed at Chanderkot helipad at 1125 hrs and picked up 03 critically injured Jawans of ITBP who were amongst the 09 critically injured travelling in fateful bus. The other heptr landed at 1225 hrs and picked up two remaining critical Jawans along with a medical attendant. Four casualties were picked up by civil helicopter. “Due to the power station and several microwave towers on eastern side of the helipad, heptrs had to carry out one sided approaches and take offs with thorough traffic coordination with civil helicopters. Additionally, the site had limited manoeuvring space” said the mission leader and captain of the lead aircraft Wg Cdr Vishal Mehta.
Both the heptrs continued to Jammu airport, where the ambulance was ready to attend the casualty. The casualties suffered serious injuries which included facial/head injuries, fractured leg and major bruises on arms. Although they had been recovered from the accident site to Ramban DH their situation was highly critical and speedy evacuation to a better medical facility was the only life saving measure available.
The crew of HOVERING HAWKS executed the mission with extreme professionalism.
New Delhi: Sunday 09 Sep, 2018
Hazik Mushtaq Beigh and his friends were trekking in the Kolahai Glacier area when the team fell in a crevasse; two of the team were fatally injured. Hazik suffered injuries which required his immediate evacuation to a medical facility.
Western Air Command of Indian Airforce launched two Cheetah helicopters, of the Udhampur based Hovering Hawks unit who happened to be at Srinagar at that point. Two choppers were necessary due to the inhospitable terrain and the poor weather conditions in the general area of operations. The leader of Falcon formation was Wg Cdr Vishal Mehta with Flt Lt Mittal as the co-pilot. The plan was to winch the casualty into the heptr as no suitable landing site was available.
Upon reaching the site Wg Cdr Mehta realised that Hazik could not be winched due to his serious injuries, so both heptrs flew to Awantipur and removed the side doors, picked up a guide enroute from Lidru and reached the spot once again. The weather during the entire period was marginal.The elevation of the place is 12000ft which added to the piloting difficulties of the small heptr. The captain of the lead aircraft, Wg Cdr Mehta , decided to find a small spot of flat land nearby and touchdown.
Having picked up Hazik both heptrs flew back to base. “The spot was such that it did not offer any place to land, we had established that winching the casualty was out of question, hence only one option was left. I told my wingman to orbit overhead while I tried to land on a small flat land. The landing called upon my entire experience and training as a helicopter pilot. It was immensely satisfying when Hazik was saved” said the mission leader and captain of the lead aircraft Wg Cdr Vishal Mehta.
God's own country was deluged by the fury of nature delivered through incessant rain and unprecedented flooding. Thousands of people were rendered homeless and a large swath of land was left inundated. Mother nature held nothing back and landed its most vicious punch with merciless ferocity to make people suffer unspeakable misery.
Concerted efforts were made by IAF in rescuing stranded people from the flooded areas. Ladies, children, elderly people and residents were winched from the rooftops of submerged houses to safety by IAF helicopters. IAF helicopters have also dropped off food and water packets to the stranded people in the affected areas. Transport aircraft from all corners of the country have been flying day and night to ensure relief material is available in the relief camps. Medical teams from Southern Air Command and Training Command have been deployed at various places to provide medical assistance. In addition, No 1 Rapid Action Medical Team (RAMT) has been airlifted from Command Hospital Air Force Bengaluru to Thiruvananthapuram to assist in the medical relief efforts to the residents of Kerala. RAMT has the capability to provide both medical and surgical emergency medical care. Additionally, 119 Doctors with 63 T of medicine and equipment have been airlifted to Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram for further positioning at various medical camps.
On 18 Aug 18, two mobile medical teams were inserted into medical relief operations and they were followed by eight more medical teams within the next two days. These ten mobile medical teams were deployed in some of the most devastated parts of the state. Nine medical assistants, who were on leave in their hometowns across Kerala, voluntarily joined the medical relief efforts at a time when their own families were reeling under the impact of natural calamity of gigantic proportion. This act of service beyond the call of duty was one of many incredible deeds of loyalty, courage and dedication to the noble profession, carried out by members of medical teams of the IAF that were deployed across Kerala in its worst hour.
The availability of volunteer medical assistants ensured that each of the mobile medical teams had a Malayalam speaking person and this neutralised the linguistic barrier and extended outreach to the people who knew no language other than their mother tongue. These medical teams waded through stagnant water, walked through tall grass and jungles infested with dangerous animals, travelled on boats through streets turned into rivers and villages transformed into lakes, and worked under the gloomy sky which stubbornly refused to relent. Patients were treated in their homes, on rooftops, on boats, in temples and churches or any places where these medical teams could pitch themselves even for a brief period.
The worst affected people were the aged and children who were not only deprived of nutrition but also many had not had their prescribed medication for chronic illness like bronchial asthma, IHD, hypertension, diabetes etc. A large number of people were carrying various kinds of infections that required immediate medical intervention. The mobile teams conducted ad hoc OPDs, took care of the sick and provided all the medicines required by them including the prophylactic medicine to prevent diseases associated with flooding and stagnated water. These mobile medical teams not only provided medical relief but also the emotional succour to people left stunned by the wrath of nature. Some medical teams also had lady doctors to ensure that the female patients feel at ease while discussing their medical problems.
On 22 Aug 18, No.1 Rapid Action Medical Team (1 RAMT) from Command Hospital, Bengaluru was flown into the thick of on-going medical effort to expand the scope of medical relief in Op Karuna. The team was deployed at Chethankery near Thiruvalla and had set up a ten bedded hospital in a community hall. This team has a medical specialist, two medical officers and is well equipped to provide routine and emergency medical care.
On 24 Aug 18, the IAF inducted No.3 Rapid Action Medical team (3 RAMT) from AF Station Hindon, into Op Karuna to further augment the medical relief effort. 3 RAMT has a surgical team, a Paediatrician and two other doctors. It is equipped with a mini laboratory, operation theatre and other major medical equipment to provide life saving medical care. Initially 3 RAMT established a 10 bedded hospital at Alappuzha. Subsequently, on 31 Aug, it was relocated to Ramankery, Kuttanad.
Both these RAMTs provided life saving treatment to a large number of patients in flood ravaged regions.
The ten mobile teams and 1 RAMT were gradually withdrawn by 30 Aug 18. However 3 RAMT continued to provide medical care till 14 Sep 18 when it was finally withdrawn on the advice of state Govt. All these medical teams together provided treatment to over 7300 patients during their medical relief operations in flood affected parts of Kerala.
This enormous humanitarian effort was deeply appreciated by the people of Kerala and also the State Govt. The commendable professionalism and commitment displayed by the medical personnel under trying circumstances found several worthy mentions in local media.
Op Karuna was a massive HADR (Humanitarian Assisted Disaster Relief) mission. The enormity of this overwhelming natural catastrophe tested not only the professional skills & conduct of the medical personnel to the core, but also the endurance, the commitment and the courage of conviction that we can do it. The IAF came out on top of what it had set out to achieve during the mission, and the success of this endeavour under difficult circumstances is a living tribute to the medical personnel of the IAF for their excellent professionalism, outstanding preparedness and inspirational leadership.
The State of Yemen was pushed into a crisis situation due to the developing civil war situation in the month of March 15. Coalition Arab forces had commenced air strikes in Yemen in the last week of March 15. The Govt of India assessed a requirement of immediate evacuation of over 4000 Indian nationals based at various locations in Yemen. A combined MEA, IAF, Indian Navy and Air India evacuation plan was put into place for evacuation of Indian nationals. Indian Naval ships evacuated nationals from Yemen port cities to Djibouti and Air India ferried back nationals from Sanaa to Djibouti, IAF deployed three C-17 aircraft to ferry back Indian nationals from Djibouti to Kochi and Mumbai. As many as eleven evacuation trips were undertaken by IAF aircraft that facilitated safe evacuation of 2096 Indian nationals.
The city of Male on 04 Sep 14, suffered a major drinking water crisis with the breakdown of its main RO plant. The city had to be sustained with over 100T of drinking water per day till the plant was re-operationalised. Based on a request by the Govt of Maldives, the IAF responded with alacrity and deployed three C-17 and three IL-76 aircraft to airlift packaged water from Delhi to Arakkonam, and thereon to Male. Between 05-07 Sep 14, IAF airlifted 374 Tonnes of drinking water to Male.
0n 17 Aug 13, the British Embassy in India approached the Indian Air Force for evacuation of a British national stranded on the icy slopes of Saser Kangri. Mr. Andrew Dean Parkin a British national, was caught in an avalanche & got swept into a crevasse. The fall caused a serious back injury to Mr. Parkin due to which he was unable to move his legs. The other members of the expedition pulled him out of the crevasse & immediately asked for emergency evacuation through their organising agency & the British Embassy.
A two helicopter rescue team was tasked from 114 HU AF. Casualty was successfully evacuated despite constraints of bad weather, white out conditions and turbulent wind conditions and restricted area of ops at the designated place of evacuation.
During the recent flood relief operations in Uttarakhand IAF responded to this enormous challenge with characteristic speed, resolve and fortitude. On 17 Jun 13, the IAF commenced operations and as reports of the scale of disaster started pouring in; IAF within 48 hours, positioned 45 heptrs of eight different types, operating from eight different locations. Even the Sarang helicopter aerobatic team was inducted to provide greater flexibility in Ops.
Two forward focal points were set up at Dharasu and Gauchar. Further, flying detachments were created at Jolly-grant, Pithoragarh, Dharchula, Joshimath, Rampur, Bageshwar and Shimla. Makeshift helipads were constructed in record time, and on occasion, personnel were even winched down to create air operations facilities.
These forward locations were operationalised with infrastructure build up such as positioning of fuel and Air Traffic Control. Mi-26 was pressed into service to ferry entire fuel bowsers to forward locations. Use of the transport fleet with the C-130 aircraft to innovatively induct fuel, essential for sustenance of relief operations, was resorted to. Mobile Air Traffic Control vans were inducted at Dharasu and Gauchar.
During these operations, remarkably in 65 days, IAF undertook 3536 missions and airlifted 23892 civilians and carried 797.589 T of valuable relief material, a Herculean effort indeed by any standards.
The recent flash floods often dubbed by the media as 'Himalayan Tsunami' which ravaged the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal in Jun 13, saw in their wake; some gallant and spirited rescue missions flown by IAF transport and helicopter fleet in the form of 'Op Rahat'. In addition there were also some civil helicopters as well operating towards relief ops in these valleys. One such helicopter operated by Pawan Hans had been damaged due to a hard landing at Harsil helipad and the wreckage was lying at the helipad since then. IAF was approached by Pawan Hans for recovery of this helicopter.
The operations were undertaken in a very systematic, methodical and professional manner. The recovery route from Harsil to Dehradun was majorly through the Bhagirithi/ Ganga valley. This valley is extremely narrow at places with no turning radius being available, and also infested with a heavy network of High Tension Cables crossing the valley at places over tall pylons. In addition, due to the location of Harsil at the confluence of three valleys, the winds get strong and turbulent post 0900 hrs. It was the precise coordination between aircrew, ground crew and all agencies involved that resulted in safe recovery of a crashed civil helicopter in underslung mode by a Mi-17 V5. This being the first mission flown on this type of helicopter, both man and machine operated to their limits within the safety margin to execute the missions in time. Overall, the operation brought out the real mettle of a helicopter crew and at the same time once again proved the versatility of V5 as a platform.