The recently raised Indian Air Force commandos, 'Garuda Force', will be deployed in the strife-torn African nation of Congo.
The force raised to make IAF self-sufficient in protecting their strategic assets like airbases, fighters and transport aircraft, radars and missiles will have to prove their mettle in the embattled African country where the IAF is playing a vital role in peace-keeping, according to Vice-Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal M McMahon.
Along with the deployment of the Garuda Force, IAF for the first time during its long tenure in international peace keeping is also exporting Air Service Units to man airport services at Kindu airport in the eastern region of Congo.
The Garuda Force and the ASUs would form part of the 120-member Indian UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, McMahon said.
The Garuda force has undergone extensive training in both armed and unarmed combat by the Indian army commandos and the National Security Guard (NSG).
The team to be based at Kindu airport in eastern DRC is IAF's third contribution to United Nation's peacekeeping mission and the first one ever to provide Airfield Service Units (ASU).
An Indian helicopter unit is already operating in Congo as part of the UN mission.
Bidding adieu to the contingent in Delhi, the Vice Chief of Air Staff said that India was getting a lot of requests from the UN for various peacekeeping missions and would continue making contributions in future.
"Keeping in mind the tough terrain and security environment it will be a demanding job but we expect highstandards of Indian Air Force to be maintained," he said.
The Indian team would be manning UN air movements in a terrain, which has no roads and operations would include crash and fire fighting services, medical support, meteorological services, ramp operations and communications.
Describing the challenges expected in Congo Sqdrn Ldr Zaidi said, "The biggest challenge is that we will be acting as a peacekeeping and not as a peace enforcement agency."
The contingent that departs tonight will be taking over operations from Sweden and an interim US mission.