The Indian Air Force has once again risen to the occasion by bringing relief to the needy and evacuate them from earthquake-hit areas in Nepal
At the time of writing, the death toll in the massive earthquake which struck Nepal on April 25 has gone beyond 8,000 and thousands are still unaccounted for. Massive efforts by the Nepalese Government and the local people and the global community on a war-footing are on, but it is not sufficient as the devastation has been widespread. The global community, starting with India, has descended on Nepal, intensifying rescue and rehabilitation work. The Indian Government was the first to step in and kudos to the efforts of the armed forces personnel who have put service above themselves.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is providing relief to the people in distress across Nepal including in remote and inaccessible areas. Critical requirements for Nepal were sent by two transport aircraft, first by an IL-76 which contained utensils, vegetables and a 21 member ‘Langar’ team, tents, water. Another C-17 aircraft with 56 tonnes of load containing tents and water was sent in one day. A third transport aircraft i.e, a C-17 carried tents and Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) Two more aircraft were sent on April 30 containing a ‘Langar’ team from Punjab Government. and blankets.
The IAF has positioned six medium-lift helicopters (MLH) at Kathmandu. Two MLHs are positioned at Pokhara. Helicopter sorties are being carried out to Lukla, Dhading, Millanchi and Gorkha. The most affected areas where casualty evacuation were carried out are Chautara, Charikot, Dhading, Melum, Lukla, Aroghat, Dhunche, Trishuli, Ramchap, Barpak, Narayan Chor, Namchi Bazar and Tatopani.
Transport and helicopter aircraft are being utilised extensively for human assistance disaster relief (HADR) operations. The IAF, after proving its mettle in bringing succour to scores of people after Yemen evacuation in April, and in Jammu & Kashmir in September last, has once again risen to the occasion and added a pioneering chapter in disaster relief by bringing relief to the needy and evacuate them from earthquake-hit areas in Nepal.
Since April 25, the IAF has airlifted thousands of persons flying C-17 Globemaster III, IL-76, C-130J Super Hercules and An-32 aircraft. A C-130J aircraft made a landing in a very short airstrip at Pokhara successfully. It carried six tonnes of food and water. A C-130J with 55 tents and 1,630 blankets and another C-130J with 14 tonnes of water, food and medicines was sent to Kathmandu. Two An-32s with 2.5 tonnes of food and water were sent to Pokhara.
The IAF had only 10 days ago pulled off its biggest civilian rescue feat – airlifting thousands of Indians and foreign nationals from war torn Yemen in Operation Rahat.
The IAF had inducted its biggest aircraft till date – C-17, two years ago for heavy-lift capability to transport troops and tanks to the war front. The IAF has procured ten C-17 aircraft from the US and three were inducted in 2014 at the Hindon airbase, near Delhi. The C-17’s ability to carry tones of equipment and passengers and take off from the world’s most dangerous runways is what makes it a formidable rescue craft.
The C-17 was not alone – the IAF rescue squadron included a C-130J Super Hercules (rescuing 55 passengers) and an IL-76 aircraft (rescuing 152 passengers) on Day 1 of the disaster. But it was the C-17 Globemaster III saved 348 people in its two runs to Nepal. The planes are ferrying army, engineering task forces, essential supplies, the National Disaster Response Force teams, medical and relief equipments. Globally, the C-17’s capabilities have been a testament to the idea that all military forces must be invested in rescuing as many as civilians as possible. IAF continues to be engaged in the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in Nepal through man and machine, due to the new wave of earthquake and aftershocks causing fresh casualties.
$5 Billion Required
According to reports in the media, complete restoration of the affected areas will cost the Nepal Government approximately $5 billion which is about 20 per cent of Nepal’s GDP.
The United States has announced $1 million in immediate assistance to the Nepal Government. The US Agency for International Development has a Disaster Assistance Response Team of 60 members working in Nepal. A 57-member team of the Los Angeles County Fire Department have also been deployed to Nepal. The US Air Force has also deployed its staff to Nepal in support of disaster-relief operations. “The [C-17 Globemaster] aircraft transported nearly 70 personnel, including a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue team and several journalists, along with 45 square tonnes of cargo,” a statement from the US Air Force said.
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport aircraft, developed first for the United States Air Force. The C-17 carries forward the name of two previous pistonengined military cargo aircraft, the Douglas C-74 Globemaster and the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II. The C-17 commonly performs strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world and additional roles include tactical airlift, medical evacuation and airdrop duties.
C-130J Super Hercules
Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules which is with the IAF, offers superior performance and new capabilities, with the range and flexibility for every theatre of operations and evolving requirements. This rugged aircraft is regularly sent n missions in the harshest environments, and is often seen as the first aircraft in touching down on austere landing strips before any other transport to provide humanitarian relief after natural disasters. With more than one million hours of flying combat, humanitarian, special operations, aerial refuelling, firefighting and search and rescue missions around the world, the C-130J stands ready for its next mission and for whatever the future holds.
The Ilyushin II-76 is a multi-purpose four-engine strategic airlifted designed by the llyushin Design Bureau. The Il-76 has seen extensive service as a commercial freighter for ramp-delivered cargo, especially for outsized or heavy items unable to be otherwise carried. It has also been used as emergency response transport for civilian evacuations as well as for humanitarian/disaster relief aid around the world. Because of its ability to operate from unpaved runways, it has been useful in undeveloped areas.
The An-32 is basically a re-engined An-26. The launch customer was the IAF. The An-32 is designed to withstand adverse weather conditions better than the standard An-26. The An-32 has excellent take-off characteristics under tropical and mountainous conditions, including hot climates (up to 55° C) and from highelevation airfields (up to 4,500 m) where hot or thin air reduces a power plant’s performance. With this capability, the aircraft is suited to be a multi-purpose aircraft with medium tactical military transport roles as well as being used in civil commercial flying.