Halo's (not really) little brother

Sometimes when I write something, I keep it simple and skip over some exceptions. My disdain for large army (rotary) aviation branches has one of its exceptions in mountain warfare, for example.*

(China Defense Blog)

is close to a worst case scenario for Indian National Security.

Helicopters have - if the weather permits - a fantastic transport capability in mountainous terrain. This was already evident with one of the very first helicopters. Mules and llamas are ridiculously manpower-inefficient by comparison (llamas require even more manpower per mass transported than mules, but less food per mass transported - which may be a decisive advantage over mules in some places unless the loads are in heavier pieces).

copyright see here
A high altitude-optimised Mil Mi-26 sibling would give the PRC an edge over India in logistics along their Himalayas border that India couldn't match for many years, maybe decades.

The sporadic Western attempts to build an all-new heavy lift helicopter are neither going to be optimised for this scenario nor affordable (and maybe not built at all). A current CH-53K is a class or two below the Mi-26 and ridiculously expensive. Add the notorious Indian procurement bureaucracy's corruption and inefficiency into the mix and the prospect for India to fare better logistically in the next border conflict with China than in the 60's is a pipe dream.
Then again, a border conflict in some forsaken mountain area is probably not all that important to an Indian living in a slum or in a village without toilets.


*: And it's unreasonable to expect Germany to need much mountain warfare capability in national or collective defence. In fact, it never really needed mountain troops. They're probably a mere result of the annexation of Austria 1938 (several mountain units "for free" and for a few years an actual mountain border to secure) and the influence of the highly questionable Bavarian politician Strauss as West German minister of defence 1956-1963.


  1. Life expectancy in a combat area?
    Aaaaannnndddd its gone.

    The use in peacetime would be fantastic, but once the shooting starts these are gonna have to run. Not that getting your gear in place first is a bad thing.

    1. Not sure what you are talking about. Such helicopters can hug the mountains on friendly slopes and be warned to land when hostile fighters are known to be in the area.

      They would be extremely hard to kill logistics vehicles in a mountainous area.

  2. "And it's unreasonable to expect Germany to need much mountain warfare capability in national or collective defence. In fact, it never really needed mountain troops."

    The German Gebirgsjäger were rised in WWI because there was indeed demand for this capability in collective defense. :-)


    1. I wouldn't quite call this "collective defence".
      The Alpenkorps was founded because the Austrians messed up, but Germany could just as well have insisted that the Austrians raise more mountain warfare regiments and then support them with regular infantry divisions instead of with a mountain corps. So there was no necessity to raise and maintain mountain troops even in that kind of stupid war.
      The Reichswehr maintained no mountain warfare unit, nor did the Wehrmacht '35-'37.

  3. Not sure why you suggest, that the Indians cannot match this. They remain Russia's best customer exactly for the reasons you have outlined (incompetent domestic R&D and procurement). If the Russians really are co-developing this thing (remains to be seen, as Russian-Chinese arms transfers are far from trouble-free and ToT often a killer in their negotiations), I am quite sure the Russians will want to keep their variant un-restricted from Chinese restrictions regarding export. Heck, if the Indians just show the cash, they would probably have those choppers in service sooner than the Russians themselves (see Su-30 variants and latest Krivak frigates).