Learning from the Doklam experience, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police(ITBP) will soon have an air wing primarily for reconnaissance so that transgressions by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), troop build-up and construction activities across the border can be spotted in time. For starters, two twin-engined helicopters are being procured, which will be used for recce, transportation of combat troops, evacuation of dead, injured and sick jawans, supplying rations and flying VIPs at altitudes of 16,000-18,000 feet in the Himalayas. Sources said the ITBP helicopters will operate from its bases in Chandigarh and Borjhar (Guwahati), covering almost the whole 3,488-km-long border with China, from J&K to Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the northeast region, including Sikkim. The process to acquire the helicopters on wet lease has been initiated. The helicopters will have several features to meet operational exigencies at high altitudes and reach forward locations. The twin-engine helicopters will be able to transport 8-10 troopers on a single trip, carry arms/ammunition/explosives to forward locations, fly for two hours without refuelling, have night flying capability and special features for slithering of troopers and dropping of rations. ITBP director general R K Pachnanda will be in command of the air wing. The government has asked ITBP to make sure that pilots and crew are well acquainted with the border and they don’t cross the Line of Actual Control (LAC)/International Border (IB) under any circumstances. “The move is aimed at keeping an eye on Chinese activities across the border, including construction of roads, building permanent structures in disputed area across the LAC, PLA troop build-up and also to stay informed about transgressions into Indian villages and enhance mobility of our troops, so that there is no delay on our part in case China tries something mischievous,” a home ministry source said. Until now, IAF and Border Security Force (BSF) provided air support to ITBP on an emergency basis. At times, there was no air support on the China border due to various reasons. After the Doklam standoff, the government decided to beef up its border infrastructure and reconnaissance capabilities and home minister Rajnath Singh made two visits to the sensitive border. As first reported by TOI, the government recently gave dedicated satellite bandwidth to ITBP so that it can have better command, control, communication, surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance abilities on the border.
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