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Force's airdrop training hits chopper hurdle.

THE Centre is miles away from using air power to pound Maoist strongholds despite the worst- ever rebel attack at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh. What's worse, even the Central Reserve Police Force's ( CRPF's) attempts to train its Special Action Force ( SAF, which was earlier CoBRA) in helicopter airdrop operations have run into logistical turbulence.

Taking the cue from the National Security Guard ( NSG) operations during the 26/ 11 Mumbai terror attack, the SAF battalion stationed at Sindri in Jharkhand was asked to train its commandoes in airdropping from helicopters. But sources said the progress hasn't been satisfactory so far mainly because of the poor support available to the force.

A few NSG commandoes form the core of the training regimen at the battalion. At any given time, 18 teams were being trained for the eventuality of being airdropped in a situation similar to the Dantewada massacre.

Each team has a strength of 40- odd men.

The number goes down to 25 personnel when an operation is being conducted. The training was aimed at preparing some 450 commandos for an airdrop operation. Around 100 commandoes of Jharkhand's Jaguar Force were also participating in the exercise.

Sources said the SAF unit had made use of rail tracks to prepare platforms and the core of the training involved making commandoes slither down ropes from a height of 45 feet.

They are equipped with an 18- kg backpack and a personal weapon, and wear anti- tear gloves while carrying out the manoeuvre.

" The exercise has progressed smoothly. But the real problem starts after this," a senior CRPF officer said. The force had been able to requisition only four helicopters -- all piloted by the air force -- for anti- Maoist operations.

These choppers were stationed at Raipur in Chhattisgarh. " The plan is to get the helicopters to Jamshedpur. The commandoes trained at Dhanbad would then be sent to Jamshedpur where they can practise realtime slithering action," sources said.

After the Dantewada attack, however, the helicopters could not be sent to Jamshedpur for the training because the choppers were needed in Chhattisgarh. The exercise, scheduled to start from April 6, has now been delayed. The problem had been compounded because the air force was reluctant to fly at such low altitudes in the insurgency- hit areas.

" As a result, while SAF and Jaguar commandoes may get trained at Jamshedpur, there was no possibility of their actually doing so in the affected areas in case of any such exigencies," a source said.

The only solution lay in the CRPF acquiring its own helicopters and training its team of pilots for such exercises. The government, however, had no plans to equip the various paramilitary forces with its own choppers.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Apr 11, 2010
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