Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
AIR WAR



MIN BAJRACHAYRA

Whether it came down due to Maoist anti-aircraft fire or an accident, the loss of one of the army's three remaining airworthy MI-17 helicopters on Wednesday night in Malangwa could lead to an escalation in the conflict.

Exposed to deadly Maoist ambushes along highways, the army has been relying increasingly on air support to subdue the Maoists but strafing and bombings has lead to higher civilian casualties. The army is using 81mm and 120mm mortar rounds called "Tora Bora" dropped from helicopters. After the Thokarpa raid last week, tail fin parts of the army's new 200mm bombs were found.


KIYOKO OGURA

The night-vision equipped helicopter with call sign RAN-37 (pictured, above, after the Pandaun battle two years ago) took off from Kathmandu at 10PM on Wednesday on a \'tactical mission\' to foil the Maoist attack on the border town of Malangwa. Eye-witnesses said the helicopter hovered for an hour, then returned after refuelling in Simra but exploded in midair at about 1.30 AM. It fell in many pieces and eight bodies were found.

The Maoists said they shot down the helicopter and claimed this \'glorious victory\' ushered in a new phase in the war. In February, Maoist leaders admitted being vulnerable to aerial attacks and had been firing at choppers using GPMGs. The army says it is investigating the crash but one military expert told us it could have been caused by ordnance exploding on board. However, the army could now be tempted to buy even more sophisticated helicopter gunships to counter Maoist capabilities.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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