Monday, August 23, 2021

Why the Army ALH MK-4 ‘Rudra’ crash at Pathankot needs a thorough investigation

About three weeks ago, on 3 August 2021, an Indian Army Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) went missing over the massive Ranjit Sagar reservoir near Pathankot. The news first broke on Twitter. A few videos of the lake with floating pieces of wreckage soon found their way to social media platforms. There was the usual one-sided brief circulated by defence PRO handles to select journalists. The ominous silence around the crash, with no periodic updates, kept aviation watchers guessing. Misinformation often fills voids in information.

The helicopter — a weapon system integrated (WSI) ALH Mk IV ‘Rudra’ ex-254 Army Aviation Squadron — has no role over water. It is not equipped with emergency floatation gear (EFG) nor would the crew require to wear life preservers — a standard feature for helicopters that routinely operate over water. Looking back, Lt Col AS Batth & young Capt Jayant Joshi had nothing going for them, materially or training-wise.

The initial images of splintered fuselage and twisted metal indicate a high-energy impact with water. If the helicopter had gone into water from hover, most parts of the fuselage would have been intact, with spinning main and tail rotor blades bearing the brunt of initial contact with water. It doesn’t seem to be the case here, putting to rest speculation based around some unverified eyewitness accounts that the helicopter was hovering with a “pipe” lowered into water. The WSI ALH was made to fill very niche roles. It has no rescue winch, no slithering boom, absolutely nothing that could be lowered or used in water.

23/08/21 Cdr KP Sanjeev Kumar/Print

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