After two crashes reportedly due to a pilot error and two presumably due to a technical problem, the Ecuadorian Armed Forces are now retiring the three remaining HAL Dhruv light helicopters from active service.
The Ecuadorian Ministry of Defence has confirmed the decision, according to press agency AP.
While the branches of the Indian military are flying about 200 Dhruv’s exports have been very limited with Ecuador as the only real showcase with a substantial number of Dhruvs in service since 2009, until now.
UPDATED 28 APRIL 2015 | The strong earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April 2015, with 7.8 on the Richter scale the country’s strongest in 80 years, has had nations scramble their resources to come to the rescue of the Himalayan state. Several countries have put part of their air forces on alert to dispatch aid and rescue / recovery teams to the areas hit.
As expected other Asian nations have responded fairly fast. According to sources in New Delhi the Indian Air Force have directed a pair of its ten Boeing C-17A Globemaster IIIs strategic airlifters to the rescue / recovery / repatriation effort, as well as a Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, an Ilyushin IL-76 and a pair of Mil Mi-17 helicopters. The Republic of Singapore Air Force is sending three of its ten Hercules aircraft; the Pakistan Air Force sent four of its 18 C-130s and the Royal Thai Air Force committed Hercs as well. Qatar dispatched two civilian Qatar Airways Cargo Airbus A330 to Kathmandu. China sent its rescue team on an Air China Airbus A330.
Sweden initially committed a team of 72 men and women plus 12 dogs to help Nepalese authorities in the search for survivors and recovery efforts, but later decided to send 30 people and no dogs on board a civilian freighter. The team has enough supplies and essentials to be self-sufficient for two weeks and left Örebro Airport in the centre of the country at around 21:20 local time on Monday 27 April. Earlier it was thought that the bigger team would go on one of the EU/NATO’s three C-17A Globmasters based at Papa Airbase in Hungary. Sweden is one of the main users of this small pool of European airlift.
The Netherlands sent a Urban Search and Rescue team of 62 men/women and 8 dogs to the area, using a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) KDC-10. The team will depart the Netherlands on Sunday evening. Five tonnes of aid accompanies the team on board the RNLAF aircraft. The UK is sending a C-17 Globemaster and C-130 Hercules, while the US has ordered a C-17 with 70 disaster assistance personnel and 45 square tonnes of cargo to the region.
Nepal Army Air Wing
The resources of Nepal itself are spread thin. The Nepal Army Air Wing only has a few air assets available. The fixed wing fleet consists of two Antonov AN-28 light transport aircraft, a Britten Norman BN-2 Islander utility aircraft and a Hawker Siddeley HS 748 transport aircraft.
A quartet of Indian-made HAL Dhruv, four Alouette IIIs and five Mil Mi-17 “Hip” make up the mainstay of the rotary wing. It is complemented by a Eurocopter (Airbus Helicotpers) AS350 Écureuil and two Aérospatiale SA315 Alouette IIs/Lamas. A bigger Eurocopter (Airbus Helicopters) AS332 Puma is configured for VIP flights. The Nepal Army has only one main base of operations, part of Kathmandu Airport, but there are at least 36 airfields spread across the country that can be used for air operations.
It is not known if and how many aircraft in Nepal have been damaged by the earthquake. Private rotary wing is available as well, but we have no numbers at this time.
Two of seven aircraft delivered in 2007 have crashed, one caught fire on 27 January 2015 while another had a major problem about a week earlier.
The Ecuadorian Air Force confirmed it has now restricted the operations with the three remaining Dhruvs that so far haven’t been in any incident yet.
Since 1992 HAL has produced more than 200 Dhruvs, which are extensively used by the Indian Air Force, Indian Army Aviation, Indian Navy and other Indian government services. Military versions have been exported to Ecuador, Surinam, Israel, the Maldives and Nepal.
The Nepalese Army buys 2 additional Mi-17V5 tactical transport helicopters from the Russian state-owned arms export company Rosoboronexport, a spokesperson of the armed forces of the small Asian state said to the Himalayan Times.
The deal is said to have been concluded on 19 December 2013 and had been approved by the Nepalese parliament in advance. The armed forces of Nepal already operate three Mi-17s (one of them has reg. nr. NA-038). The new helicopters will like be painted in a overall standard single dark green colour.
From its sole airbase in Kathmandu the Nepal Army Air Wing flies a very mixed fleet of mainly helicopters including a Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) license-built SA316B Chetaka (Alouette III with registration NA-029), a Aérospatiale SA330J Puma (reg. NA-028), a Aérospatiale AS332 Super Puma (VIP) and reportedly also a pair of HAL Dhruv.
Two PZL M28 Skytruck (NA-041 and NA-048) light transport aircraft are the main fixed wing assets of the Nepalese armed forces, with the current status of the two Britten-Norman BN-2 Islanders in Nepalese service unknown. The largest airplane in the inventory is a still airworthy Hawker Siddeley HS748 (NA-020).
Officially Nepalese military aircraft have between 30 and 36 airstrips throughout the country available for operations, but none of them has aircraft permanently assigned to them.
Source: Himalayan Times with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger