-S. SIERRA, KATHMANDU
The new purchase of Nepalese Army AgustaWestland’s AW139 Helicopter has arrived Tribhuvan International Airport to join the Rotary Wing fleet of Nepalese Army. The helicopter after making its maiden flight in Italy was transported in Nepal via containers in waterway and land way to be reassembled again for starting its service from Mid Air Base, No. 11 Brigade, Directorate General of Army Aviation inside Tribhuvan International Airport.
The package departed Italy about a month ago and had arrived the Army facility in Airport, 6th of October, last Saturday. The package of two big containers and more than a dozen other small containers of parts, tools, and spares now rests at the hangar of VVIP operations of Nepalese Army. Sources tell that very soon a technical and engineering team from Agusta will be arriving Nepal to initiate the assembly of the new helicopter and bring it to the sky as soon as possible. The new AW319 has acquired a Nepali registration ‘NA-059’.
Although the government had decided on July last year to purchase three helicopters–one medium and two lights–for disaster response and rescue operations, the purchase of medium-size twin-engine helicopters has been put off as the price ceiling exceeded an earlier deal.
Another youngest fleet of Rotary Wing before this AW319 an Airbus ‘H125’ helicopter landed TIA on 16th of August through a ferry flight and is already in service from Mid Air Base registered as ‘NA-055’.
Also, Two Piper Archer trainer aircraft, 4 PZL M28 Skytruck, and one CASA Cn235 series aircraft are anticipated to join the Fixed Wing fleet of Nepalese army most probably within a year from now.
For the last two years, the army is under discussion into helicopter purchase with the company. The army is also discussing with the other companies to buy more two helicopters.
This is the very first time that the AW139 is entering Nepalese Airspace but previously, Altitude Air, a private heli-charter company had bought Leonardo Helicopter/Augusta Westland Koala AW119 chopper manufactured on the United States first time ever in Nepal for the demonstration flight of Augusta Westland Koala AW119 to check the performance of chopper in High Altitude at the Himalaya Kingdom.
On July 2016, the immediate Defense Ministry Spokesperson had vowed that the cabinet had decided to begin the procurement process citing an immediate need of helicopters for the ceiling fixed earlier Nepalese Army. But after the Nepalese Army came up with a price that exceeded and couldn’t even meet the requirements sought, he added. As per the government decision, the Ministry of Defense had allocated Rs 3 billion for helicopters purchase.
Nepalese Army Aviation currently owns 12 aircraft which includes four MI-17, two Bell 206, three Écureuils, one Lancer and one Islander and one PZL M28 Sky truck. The defense force has recently sold its two Aérospatiale AS-332L-1 Super Pumas, an advanced chopper for VIPs, to China.