The Indian Air Force is preparing to ferry its Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters to Russia for major overhaul and life extension, following which its vertical heavy-lift capability will get a substantial boost.
The resurrected Soviet-origin helicopters will operate along with the IAF’s new American CH-47 Chinooks that are also employed in the heavy-lift logistics role for airlifting men and equipment.
At present, the IAF has three Mi-26s, the world’s largest and heaviest helicopters. These are based at Chandigarh with the 126 Helicopter Unit, also called Featherweights. The same unit also operates the Chinooks. In service since 1985, the first Mi-26 was grounded in 2013, followed by the other two in 2014 and 2017 on the expiry of their stipulated technical life. Although the IAF set into motion the process to give fresh lease of life to these grounded flying machines around four years ago, the plans remained mired in bureaucratic machinery.