Sunday, September 01, 2013

CABS To Deliver New Maritime Surveillance Aircrafts To The Indian Coast Guard

Up to 19 of these aircrafts could see induction into service.

The Indian Coast Guard's [ICG] aerial assets would receive a significant boost if the DRDO's Centre for Air Borne Systems' [CABS] plans reach fructification. It recently issued a Request For Information [RFI] for the acquisition of aircrafts which it would then adapt to meet the end-user's specific requirements.


Referred to as the 'Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft [MMMA]', these are to enable the ICG carry out:

  • Surveillance & Interdictions
  • Search & Rescue [SAR]
  • Pollution monitoring
  • Transport men & material
  • Serve as an air ambulance

For this, the OEM is required to suitably modify the airframe in order to enable CABS mount the necessary sensors & weaponry. While it initially foresees a requirement of 6 such platforms, another 3 may be acquired as part of its 'Option' clause in the agreement, followed by additional 10, later, bring the total number to 19.

in keeping with trends of an average Indian acquisition process, this buy too has been quite a long drawn affair, with news of floating Tenders for this, reported as back as 2011. That news was, in fact, the result of cancellation of an even earlier process undertaken to acquire, initially, the same number of aircrafts, identified as the Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance [MRMR] aircraft. As reported earlier ICG would like to equip the aircraft with the Soviet-origin 12.7 mm Air  Defence Gun, that the Ordnance Factory Board [OFB] license manufactures in the country. Its requirement for fitting the aircrafts with an AESA radar requires some clarification, given that 360o coverage & AESA radars are mutually exclusive concepts, since merely having an AESA would not guarantee all-round coverage being claimed.

The ICG's present surveillance requirements are being met with the help of the German-origin Dornier Do 228 aircrafts, 40 of which have been sanctioned for induction, so far. Of these already 38 have reportedly been delivered. 17 of these would be equipped with the more advanced Israeli Elta EL/M-2022A radar. If we're to assume this particular RFI is taken to its logical conclusion then, if all goes well, it would be at least 2 years before the contract is signed, and an additional 2-3 years before deliveries can commence. We would thus see them getting inducted into the Coast Guard only by 2018-19. With recent reports of the Indian Navy looking to acquire newer medium range reconnaissance aircrafts of its own, there are speculations that the Navy might transfer the Britten-Norman Islander aircrafts, for which it is  looking for a replacement, to the Coast Guard. This transfer, coupled with the planned MMMR purchase & the existing Dornier would see the Coast Guard's aerial capabilities getting a significant boost. If feasible, one could also contemplate a grouping of the Navy's & Coast Guard's purchases with a common airframe for both, with the baseline model being purchased for the latter & the more advanced variant of the Navy. Either way, one hopes that the decision is delayed no further, this time around & the Coast Guard's schedule for its expansion plans are maintained.


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