Forces: April 21, 2004

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The Royal Nepal Army is a minimally-armed and equipped force tasked with defending one of the poorest nations in the world (per-capita GNP of $180). Nepal is a mountainous country wedged between China and India, two major Asian military powers, and is the country from which the famous Gurkhas in the British and Indian armies originate.

Competition for spots in the British and Indian Gurkha regiments is fierce (30 applicants for every vacant slot for a recruit). The unsuccessful applicants usually find themselves in the Royal Nepal Army. This force of 35,000 men has fourteen brigades, and is equipped with a variety of weapons from the UK, India, China, and Russia, most of which are obsolete systems (primarily towed artillery and Ferret scout cars). This leads to a logistical and maintenance nightmare, which a poor nation like Nepal really doesnt need.

However, the equipment problems have not prevented Nepalese troops from having a good reputation, even though the recruits are not selected to serve in the British and Indian armies, they are still regarded as very high-quality personnel. The force is primarily designed to defend the capital, Katmandu for as long as possible. The real goal is to buy enough time for diplomacy to place pressure on the invading army (either Chinese or Indian). Nepalese strategy is also to make occupation difficult through guerilla warfare, which is can accomplish with the rest of its active force, augmented by retired soldiers (nearly 100,000 from the British, Indian, and Nepalese armies reside in Nepal).

The Royal Nepal Army also maintains a small air wing for transporting forces around the country. The Royal Nepal Army Air wing is equipped with a mix of fixed-wing aircraft (four Shorts Skyvan and a British Aerospace HS 748 for the Royal family) and helicopters (an Aerospatiale Super Puma, two Aerospatiale Pumas, and four Romanian-built Alouettes), supplemented by aircraft from the government-owned Royal Nepal Airlines.

Nepal also has a paramilitary force, the Armed Police Force, of 7,000 men, which has been leading the battle against the Maoist insurgents operating inside Nepal. This force has a variety of modern American and British equipment. Its chief was assassinated in January, 2003.

Recently, Nepal has had trouble with Maoist rebels, and this is causing the Himalayan country to make efforts to upgrade its forces. India has recently provided Nepal with two Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters, and Nepal is looking into the purchase of advanced attack helicopters from the United States. Nepal has also begun to coordinate with India to deal with the Maoist rebels. These insurgent groups operating from India will probably be the major reason why Nepals Army will eventually have good equipment to go with its superb troops. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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