Normally chatty, the pilots of the squadron are reticent about talking about their recent operations for reasons of security, But over a period of three days, your correspondent managed to piece together a typical scenario with the help of the squadron to try and understand what it actually does.
The 202 Squadron is based in a location that renders all the areas of the valley approximately equidistant in terms of flying time for their Dhruv helicopters.
A UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is carrying out a surveillance sortie above the north western mountains bordering the valley. The fresh snowfall at the higher reaches tends to give away the movement of terrorists, since the only other presence in these inhospitable heights would be security forces.
The UAV pilot detects several sets of footprints in the snow with the high definition camera onboard and passes the data up the channel.
The record low number of infiltration attempts in the past year had made militants desperate.
The fact that the foot prints would have to be relatively fresh to remain visible even with the intermittent snowfall prevalent in these parts, increases their confidence of a possible interception. Meanwhile, the UAV circles over the location, following the tracking the footprints until they trail into the vegetation of a forest.
And so an operation is launched. A wide net is cast with patrols converging on the locations to surround it and set up a perimeter, without alerting the targets to their presence.
The pilots at 202 have already been informed of the possibility of being called up and begin preparing for the operation. While the engineering officers configure the aircraft for slithering, placing weapons and other special heliborne operations, the pilots assemble at the briefing room with maps and charts of the area to figure out their flight path and insertion points, and wait.
The detailed final tasking leaves no room for ambiguity and clearly lays out the role of the squadron. The terrorists remain in the forest, believing themselves safe in the shelter from the marginal weather.
The Special Forces unit has been on the job as well, familiarizing themselves with the terrain where they could establish contact on the basis of satellite imagery.
The call comes at five in the evening.
Four Dhruv helicopters are to deliver the troops and a Cheetah helicopter, fitted with a High Resolution Camera and Infra Red Surveillance System, will detect any thermal signatures in the cold environment. Three of the Dhruvs will insert commandos while the fourth will maintain standby position with a squad of commandos ready to deploy in case of an attempted escape. A UAV will provide overwatch.
The commandos board the aircraft, their gear double checked, and the pilots wave off the ground marshals and bring their aircraft to a hover.
The UAV sends in final confirmation of the layout: A slope which ends in a gradual gradient at the top, on the base of which is the forest, extending nearly two kilometers downhill. The forest is snowbound on all sides so any movement outside is likely to be picked up.
Flying close formation and nap-of-the-earth in coarse terrain, the Gideons use the folds of the ground to hide their fast moving task force from the terrorists. The autopilot and advanced onboard navigation system take the helicopters to the predetermined location. All this, while maintaining constant communication with the surveillance detachments monitoring the forest, and headquarters, beyond line-of-sight over the onboard VHF and HF radio.
Just before the last turn towards the valley where the intended Landing Zone (LZ) lay, the pilots switch to manual to hand-guide the aircraft, masking their flight to check out the LZ before deplaning the commandos. While the first helicopters overflies the forest and comes to a low hover over the gradual slope, the second tier moves closer towards the southern edge of the forest closer to the pine forest and slithers the troops down.
The fourth Dhruv circles at a distance, keeping the other three in sight and waits to deploy additional troops on the ground. The Cheetah and the drone keep the operation under watch.
The commandos cut off the militant group from the south and the gradual slope above. As soon as the first squad reaches the edge of the forest, they make contact and the fire-fight begins. This is when the fourth helicopter moves into position to drop the squad that to cut off the escape route of the terrorists.
For twenty minutes the commandos pound the location of the terrorists with automatics and grenades. The commandos carefully entered the forest, and closed in. The militants fire a rocket at the fourth helicopter, missing it but giving it a good shaking. But this also gives away the position of the launcher and the commandos silence it quickly.
Half an hour and the terrorists are neutralized. Time elapsed from first sighting by the UAV: One hour.
But the commandos find they’ve also taken casualties and pull out two hit by splinters and one critical, with a femoral artery rupture. While they mop up, a CASEVAC call has been sent out and an air ambulance configured Dhruv is on its way.
As it closes in on their location, the extraction of the commandos has already begun, while the Cheetah helicopter scans the area one last time for signs of life. The infantry moves in to clear the area and take custody of the dead terrorists.
After sunset, the pilots now fly with their Night Vision Goggles (NVG), operating under minimum light conditions which are further exacerbated by the shadows thrown by the mountains.
The commandos at the LZ mark it with Infra-Red markers and lights to guide the pilots to a safe landing point. The doctor arrives and loads the casualties on the aircraft, which can carry four stretchers and other life saving equipment.
He stabilizes the casualties giving in-flight first aid and treatment for trauma to deliver them safely into the care of waiting surgeons and doctors on ground.
Twelve terrorists are killed and a large cache of arms and ammunition recovered.
The Dhruvs eliminated the need for a long, grueling mountain walk by the security forces and reduced the reaction time from possibly a few days to a couple of hours, making intelligence inputs truly actionable. Meanwhile, the Special Forces and 202 Squadron continue to devise newer tactics for Special Heliborne Operations.
More at:http://www.stratpost.com/army-day-speci ... ng-gideons