US-2: Bul­wark of In­dia-Ja­pan De­fence Co­op­er­a­tion In­ter­views:

Am­phib­ian air­craft com­bine the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of rapid surveil­lance and prompt re­sponse, whether for re­lief or ar­rest or in­ter­ven­tion, in a sin­gle plat­form

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WORLD WAR II SAW the in­duc­tion of the largest fly­ing boat in his­tory. The Martin MARS am­phib­ians were in­tro­duced to aug­ment wartime cargo and troop car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity. The MARS flew ex­ten­sively with the United States Navy to trans­port more than three mil­lion pounds of cargo and troops with more than 78 round trips be­tween San Francisco Bay and Honolulu pro­vid­ing yeo­man ser­vice to the Al­lied Is­land Hop­ping-cam­paign in the Pa­cific.

The In­dian Navy (IN), too, is no stranger to am­phibi­ous air­craft. Naval avi­a­tion, which for­mally took birth at Kochi on May 11, 1953, op­er­ated the Shorts Sealand am­phibi­ous air­craft, as its first In­dian naval air­craft. How­ever, the ca­pa­bil­ity of op­er­at­ing such air­craft was lost only in the 1960s when IN in­ducted con­ven­tional air­craft. With the ad­vent of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy in am­phibi­ous air­craft, it is only nat­u­ral that IN has now sought to re-ac­quire this unique ca­pa­bil­ity, to truly re­alise its Blue Water­ca­pa­bil­ity.

Am­phib­ian Air­craft Ca­pa­bil­i­ties

Op­er­a­tional and strate­gic roles

Am­phib­ian air­craft com­bine the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of rapid surveil­lance and prompt re­sponse, whether for re­lief or ar­rest or in­ter­ven­tion, in a sin­gle plat­form. Such a ca­pa­bil­ity is not avail­able on any other plat­form. Un­like he­li­copters and air­craft, am­phibi­ous air­craft can land at the lo­ca­tion and en­force both the will and the law of the na­tion and thus have been a plat­form of choice for many navies. Un­like ships, am­phibi­ous air­craft can reach the tar­get lo­ca­tion far faster than ships can thereby en­sur­ing early in­ter­ven­tion and pre­vent­ing es­ca­la­tion of a pre­cip­i­tous in­ci­dent at sea or close ashore. This in­cludes the abil­ity of even shore-based mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal au­thor­i­ties to un­der­take a first­hand eval­u­a­tion of a sit­u­a­tion at sea which may have in­ter­na­tional ram­i­fi­ca­tions if left to in­ten­sify with­out con­trol. No other aerial plat­form has such ca­pa­bil­ity.

The op­er­a­tional pro­file of an am­phib­ian air­craft com­prise of a land-, lake-, river­based launch with cargo and per­son­nel com­men­su­rate em­barked for the mis­sion at hand, rapid tran­sit to the tar­get area in mid ocean or close ashore/in­land a dis­tant wa­ter body, surveil­lance, data gath­er­ing and anal­y­sis dur­ing a stand-off ul­tra-low level and low speed loi­ter, alight­ing on the wa­ter for ex­e­cut­ing the mar­itime mis­sion and then ei­ther tran­sit to another des­ti­na­tion or re­turn to the par­ent launch fa­cil­ity. In the con­text of a mar­itime na­tion like In­dia, use of an am­phib­ian air­craft finds many op­er­a­tional and strate­gic roles. Con­sid­er­ing the large ex­panse of is­land ter­ri­to­ries of In­dia, the growth, con­nec­tiv­ity and se­cu­rity of the Is­land ter­ri­to­ries (A&N Is­lands and Lak­shad­weep) of the na­tion are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant. This had re­sulted in es­tab­lish­ment of the first tris­er­vices com­mand in An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands in 2001 with an aim to safe­guard In­dia's strate­gic in­ter­ests in South­east Asia and the Strait of Malacca by in­creas­ing rapid de­ploy­ment of mil­i­tary as­sets in the re­gion. The 750-km-long An­daman and Ni­co­bar ar­chi­pel­ago com­prise a chain of 572 is­lands, and is lo­cated about 1,200 km from main­land In­dia, but is merely 90 km from In­done­sia and 50 km from Myan­mar. Se­cu­rity and support of th­ese Is­land ter­ri­to­ries of In­dia have also gained strate­gic im­por­tance so as to counter any threat from China, which was re­ported to have set up surveil­lance posts in Myan­mar's Coco Is­lands, 40 km off the north­ern tip of the An­daman.

The need to curb piracy, drug and gun trafficking, poach­ing and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in the re­gion and es­pe­cially in the Malacca Strait is a mat­ter of in­ter­na­tional con­cern. All such strate­gic and se­cu­rity con­cerns of the na­tion are ad­e­quately ad­dressed by a ca­pa­ble mod­ern am­phib­ian air­craft. Ad­di­tion­ally, most of th­ese is­land ter­ri­to­ries have vir­tu­ally no scope for run­way con­struc­tion and con­se­quently the in­hab­i­tants are de­nied sim­ple med­i­cal and mod­ern ameni­ties. Re­quir­ing nei­ther run­way nor other air­field fa­cil­i­ties mod­ern am­phibi­ous air­craft can safely land within a few me­tres from the coast or is­lands and re­lief ma­te­rial and teams can be fer­ried ashore through in­te­gral boats re­quir­ing no lo­gis­tic support from the shore.

Am­phib­ian air­craft plays a cru­cial role in Long Range Fleet Support op­er­a­tions. Spares, tools and equip­ment can be fer­ried to a ship or sub­ma­rine or ship­borne air­craft at sea to ef­fect re­pairs. Th­ese air­craft can also un­der­take crew change at mid sea with­out re­course to im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms laws. Thus, op­er­a­tional avail­abil­ity of units at sea are en­hanced man­i­fold with the in­duc­tion of a ca­pa­ble am­phib­ian air­craft. For long-range op­er­a­tions in a marine en­vi­ron­ment the am­phib­ian air­craft may be not only the best but also the only vi­able op­tion.

Re­cov­ery at Sea

In ad­di­tion, from an op­er­a­tional per­spec­tive and of par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance to navies that op­er­ate long-range mar­itime pa­trol air­craft (LRMR) such as the P8I of the In­dian Navy and AWACS air­craft of the In­dian Air Force (IAF), or deck based MiG29K, or shore based mar­itime in­ter­dic­tion air­craft such as the MiG-29 or Su-30 or the Jaguar, is in the choice of the most suit­able plat­form that can con­duct a near all­weather high speed res­cue op­er­a­tion for the en­tire crew of a ditched air­craft. The air­craft is more eas­ily re­place­able than its highly trained air­crew. The res­cue of a crew is faster and surer with am­phib­ian air­craft than us­ing ships or even he­li­copters. Such an as­sur­ance of re­cov­ery at sea builds huge con­fi­dence and markedly im­proves op­er­a­tional per­for­mance of the air­crew.

ShinMaywa’s US-2 Ex­ceeds Ex­pec­ta­tions

There­fore, in keep­ing with the strate­gic and op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments and fol­low­ing the LTIPP, In­dian Navy is­sued the re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) for am­phib­ian air­craft in 2011. ShinMaywa In­dus­tries Ltd, Ja­pan re­sponded to the RFI of­fer­ing the US-2 Am­phib­ian air­craft. The US-2 and its vari­ants has been in ac­tive ser­vice with the Ja­panese Mar­itime Self-De­fence Force since 1976. A tech­nol­ogy scan of avail­able am­phib­ian air­craft clearly shows that the US-2 alone meets and in many cases ex­ceeds th­ese op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments. With an abil­ity to op­er­ate in sea state 5, land­ing/take-off dis­tances at about 300 m, tran­sit speeds in ex­cess of 550 kmph and a range of 4,500 km there is no other air­craft in its class. Com­bined with the worlds only Bound­ary layer con­trol sys­tem on a cargo and trans­port air­craft, spray sup­pres­sion fea­tures, marinised tur­bo­prop en­gines, glass cock­pit, pres­surised cab­ins and a highly so­phis­ti­cated surveil­lance and com­mu­ni­ca­tion suite the US-2 stands out as a prod­uct of renowned Ja­panese tech­nol­ogy. With an ac­ci­dent free record it is tes­ti­mony to high qual­ity and sound de­sign. The US-2 has proven cre­den­tials of suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tions in sea state 5 with sur­round­ing wave height of 4 m and a wind ve­loc­ity of about 40 kts at a dis­tance of about 1,200 km from main­land Ja­pan.

In Septem­ber 2013, based on the di­rec­tives of the sum­mit meet­ing held be­tween the two Prime Min­is­ters of In­dia and Ja­pan in May 2013, a Joint Work­ing Group (JWG) was es­tab­lished to ex­plore modal­i­ties for co­op­er­a­tion on the US-2 air­craft. The JWG has al­ready met thrice. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe in their Joint Sum­mit State­ment of Septem­ber 1, 2014, have now ex­horted the JWG to ac­cel­er­ate their dis­cus­sions on the co­op­er­a­tion in US-2 and its tech­nol­ogy. As per the fact sheet later cir­cu­lated by the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal For­eign Af­fairs, Ja­pan the US-2 co­op­er­a­tion seeks to con­cur­rently ad­vance the aero­nau­tics in­dus­try in­clud­ing the fi­nal assem­bly and man­u­fac­ture of the US-2, its main­te­nance, re­pair and over­haul and parts man­u­fac­tur­ing in In­dia. The US-2, it is learnt, may also be per­mit­ted to be ex­ported to third coun­tries un­der mu­tual agree­ment. It is ev­i­dent that the co­op­er­a­tion on the US-2, be­tween In­dia and Ja­pan is at the in­ter­na­tional level of im­mense diplo­matic and strate­gic im­port, whilst at the do­mes­tic level the down­stream ben­e­fits are across the mil­i­tary, tech­no­log­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial sec­tors.

This is the first time ever that any coun­try has of­fered to de­velop an aero­nau­tics in­dus­try in the pri­vate sec­tor in In­dia through a well tar­geted part­ner­ship and there­fore this pro­gramme is com­pletely aligned with Prime Min­is­ter Modis Make in In­dia ini­tia­tive and for re­al­is­ing a world­class aero­nau­tics and air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ing ecosys­tem within the na­tion. Part­ner­ing with Ja­pan for co­op­er­a­tion on the US-2 air­craft is of im­mense strate­gic value to In­dia. The tech­no­log­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits of this part­ner­ship are in­deed a path to progress, pros­per­ity and peace in the re­gion.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ShinMaywa

ShinMaywa Sea­plane... legacy con­tin­ues

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