Am­phibi­ous Air­craft for HADR and SAR Mis­sions

Am­phibi­ous air­craft are also suit­able for com­bat mis­sions, such as rapid and pre­ci­sion in­duc­tion and de-in­duc­tion of troops along the un­de­fended coast­lines for covert/diplo­matic or force pro­jec­tion oper­a­tions, etc

SP's NavalForces - - FRONT PAGE - REAR AD­MI­RAL SUSHIL RAM­SAY (RETD)

Am­phibi­ous air­craft are also suit­able for com­bat mis­sions, such as rapid and pre­ci­sion in­duc­tion and de-in­duc­tion of troops along the un­de­fended coast­lines. Rear Ad­mi­ral Sushil Ram­say (Retd)

FOR EVAC­U­A­TION OF IN­DI­ANS stranded in Ye­men an ex­pen­sive force of three front­line war­ships which in­cluded guided mis­sile de­stroyer and a frigate, two C-17 air­craft of the In­dian Air Force (IAF) and two pas­sen­ger ships were pressed into ser­vice. The C-17 and the Air In­dia flights op­er­ated from Dji­bouti whereas the ships fer­ried the evac­uees from Sana’a. A to­tal of about 4,000 In­dian were evac­u­ated over a pe­riod of about one month at pro­hib­i­tive cost and enor­mous risk and dan­ger. With a tran­sit time di­rect to the Ye­men coast of about four hours, from Mum­bai, am­phib­ian air­craft would have com­pleted the evac­u­a­tion in per­haps 100-120 sor­ties within a week by land­ing di­rectly at the Ye­men coastal ar­eas.

On Au­gust 14, 2013, INS Sind­hu­rak­shak sank along­side to a dev­as­tat­ing fire on board. Whilst there are sev­eral res­cue sys­tems avail­able on along­side berths, in ad­di­tion to other im­por­tant shore sup­port fire­fight­ing fa­cil­i­ties, the In­dian Navy would not have been able to or­gan­ise a res­cue ef­fort had the in­ci­dent oc­curred out at sea. For most ef­fec­tively com­bat­ing such fa­tal even­tu­al­i­ties an am­phibi­ous air­craft can be po­si­tioned with divers, weld­ing sets and ex­perts to save the sub­ma­rine and more im­por­tantly, its crew in short­est pos­si­ble time. Thus they be­come in­valu­able for mar­itime hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and dis­as­ter re­lief (HADR) and search and res­cue (SAR).

Of par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance to the In­dian Navy, and in fact all navies that op­er­ate long range mar­itime re­con­nais­sance and pa­trol air­craft, such as the P-8I of the In­dian Navy and AWACS air­craft of IAF, or deck­based MiG-29K, or shore-based mar­itime in­ter­dic­tion air­craft such as the MiG-29 or Su-30 or the Jaguar, will have am­phibi­ous air­craft to con­duct a near all-weather high speed res­cue op­er­a­tion for the en­tire crew of a ditched air­craft. Sim­i­larly, the res­cue of a crew of dis­tressed ship or sub­ma­rine is faster and surer with am­phibi­ous air­craft than us­ing ships or even he­li­copters.

Am­phibi­ous air­craft are also suit­able for com­bat mis­sions, such as rapid and pre­ci­sion in­duc­tion and de-in­duc­tion of troops along the un­de­fended coast­lines for covert/diplo­matic or force pro­jec­tion oper­a­tions, etc. Avail­abil­ity of such an en­ter­pris­ing as­set pro­vides huge amount of con­fi­dence among the crew, as­sur­ing them of very good chance of re­cov­ery even at sea.

Am­phibi­ous air­craft are also be­ing used as air­borne fire­fight­ers car­ry­ing sev­eral tonnes of sea wa­ter to douse fires ashore or on oil rigs. Am­phibi­ous air­craft can also sup­port re­mote com­mu­ni­ties in dis­tant is­lands or re­mote land fron­tiers which are in prox­im­ity of deep lakes and rivers with lo­gis­tics and med­i­cal sup­port.

Am­phib­ian air­craft have mul­ti­far­i­ous ap­pli­ca­tions for naval forces and as the tech­nol­ogy is ma­tur­ing these air­craft are un­der in­duc­tion by sev­eral navies in­clud­ing China which would pos­si­bly put a 60-tonne am­phib­ian air­craft in the In­dian Ocean re­gion wa­ters by next year.

With the ad­vent of modern tech­nol­ogy in am­phibi­ous air­craft, it is only nat­u­ral that the In­dian Navy has now sought to re-ac­quire this unique ca­pa­bil­ity, to truly re­alise its ‘Blue Wa­ter’ ca­pa­bil­ity.

For In­dia, as­pir­ing to re­gional power sta­tus, the In­dian Navy must not only be able to ad­dress the im­me­di­ate se­cu­rity needs of the coun­try but must also be able to con­trib­ute in be­nign and con­stab­u­lary oper­a­tions in its area of in­ter­est and in­flu­ence for the re­gional good. From a mar­itime per­spec­tive this power sta­tus con­trib­utes to bur­den shar­ing to­wards pro­tec­tion of global pub­lic goods and the oceanic com­mons to achieve firstly, free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and safety at sea; sec- ondly, pro­mote re­gional sta­bil­ity through an open and par­tic­i­pa­tive se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture; thirdly, proac­tively alle­vi­ate suf­fer­ing dur­ing dis­as­ters in the lit­torals of friendly na­tions: and, fi­nally a con­stab­u­lary ca­pac­ity to main­tain or­der at sea for the com­mon good of the re­gion.

Whilst ships, sub­marines and air­craft are all qual­i­fied in some way or the other for ful­fill­ing the above mis­sions each of these plat­forms are also lim­ited by some ca­pa­bil­ity gap or the other. Modern am­phibi­ous air­craft make pos­si­ble a range of op­tions not achiev­able by any one type of plat­form. Its unique multi-modal de­sign per­mits air­borne, seaborne and land oper­a­tions in a sin­gle plat­form, thus it is a highly ef­fec­tive force mul­ti­plier for de­vel­op­ing a proac­tive ca­pa­bil­ity to en­sure safety of ships and crew, se­cu­rity of the sea lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, sta­bil­ity of the lit­toral states and the abil­ity to ex­er­cise sovereignty over owned seas and ac­cess to the global com­mons in ac­cor­dance with international mar­itime norms.

In­dia’s Ac­qui­si­tion Plans for US-2i Am­phibi­ous Air­craft

In­dia has re­vived the stalled pro­ject to ac­quire a dozen Ja­panese US-2i am­phibi­ous air­craft, worth around ` 10,000 crore. The lead­ers of the two coun­tries are en­gaged in tak­ing for­ward the $1.65-bil­lion US-2i am­phib­ian search and res­cue air­craft deal. The Ja­panese have of­fered to not only ‘Make in In­dia’ for the world, but the parts for the air­craft will be man­u­fac­tured in In­dia, set­ting up main­te­nance, re­pair and over­haul (MRO) and re-ex­ports. How­ever, sources in­di­cated, ÒThat there is still no clar­ity about the num­ber of air­craft that will be man­u­fac­tured in In­dia and what com­po­nents will be al­lowed to be ex­ported.Ó

It is ev­i­dent that the col­lab­o­ra­tion 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. The In­dian Gov­ern­ment has been keen on ac­quir­ing the ShinMaywa US-2i am­phibi­ous air­craft from Ja­pan as part of their ex­pand­ing bi­lat­eral strate­gic part­ner­ship, with both na­tions wary of China’s as­sertive be­hav­iour in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

It was dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s visit to Ja­pan in 2014, for talks with his Ja­panese coun­ter­part Shinzo Abe, that the two di­rected the Joint Work­ing Group to Òac­cel­er­ate progress in the dis­cus­sions and prepa­ra­tions for a road map for the devel­op­ment of the In­dian air­craft in­dus­try through the US-2i air­craft co­op­er­a­tionÓ.

From a tech­nol­ogy per­spec­tive the fi­nal assem­bly, in­te­gra­tion and de­liv­ery of the air­craft from a man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in In­dia will leap frog In­dia to amongst the few na­tions in the world with the abil­ity to build so­phis­ti­cated am­phib­ian air­craft. One off­shoot of this tech­nol­ogy in­duc­tion would be the abil­ity to de­sign and build the next gen­er­a­tion am­phib­ian air­craft for pro­vid­ing a civil use plat­form that would link the is­land ter­ri­to­ries di­rectly with the main land with­out re­course to run­ways which dam­age the sen­si­tive ecol­ogy of the is­lands. This would open up the tourism trade and rapidly de­velop these off ly­ing is­lands. The US-2 in­duc­tion has the po­ten­tial to part­ner with the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics Lab­o­ra­tory in the de­sign and pro­duc­tion of the Re­gional Trans­port Air­craft which could well be am­phib­ian cater­ing to not only in­ter­nal routes but also ex­clu­sive and dif­fi­cult to ac­cess is­land re­sorts across the globe from a va­ri­ety of des­ti­na­tions.

From an eco­nomic per­spec­tive the Ja­panese of­fer to man­u­fac­ture the US-2 in In­dia in the pri­vate sec­tor will build up the aero­nau­tics sup­ply chain and cre­ate a clus­ter of high tech­nol­ogy mi­cro, small and medium en­ter­prises, ser­vic­ing

not only the US-2 but also global air­craft and heli­copter man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies quite like the Suzuki model which gal­vanised the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try in In­dia. The po­ten­tial for ex­port of the US-2 air­craft to third coun­tries un­der mu­tual agree­ment be­tween In­dia and Ja­pan as well as the sup­ply of so­phis­ti­cated aero struc­tures to global air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers can open a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar mar­ket. This would off­set the de­fence im­port bill to some ex­tent. In ad­di­tion, while the am­phibi­ous air­craft is a force mul­ti­plier for mar­itime forces the time has come when In­dia needs to carry out a se­ri­ous study to­wards the rel­e­vance of ‘fly­ing boats’ in eas­ing the ever in­creas­ing de­mand of civil air traf­fic in the near fu­ture. The op­por­tu­ni­ties are many but op­tions are lim­ited. Civil oper­a­tions of a cred­i­ble am­phib­ian plat­form de­signed to suit In­dian mar­ket could surely be one so­lu­tion. Of course key op­er­a­tional pa­ram­e­ters such as very short take-off and land­ing abil­ity, high sea state oper­a­tions, good pay­load, long range and high speed flight is a ne­ces­sity for suc­cess­ful oper­a­tions.

From a so­cial per­spec­tive the US-2 in­duc­tion would open the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor with much needed high skill jobs. Ap­par­ently, Ja­pan has also of­fered to train In­dian tech­ni­cians in Ja­pan in aero­nau­tics and avion­ics. Thus there would be gen­uine ca­pac­ity build­ing and ca­pa­bil­ity devel­op­ment in In­dia. In­dia’s 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 am­phib­ian 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.

Con­clu­sion

Am­phibi­ous air­craft com­bine the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of rapid sur­veil­lance and prompt re­sponse, whether for re­lief or ar­rest, in a sin­gle plat­form. Such a ca­pa­bil­ity is not avail­able on any other plat­form. The modern am­phibi­ous air­craft is thus a ver­i­ta­ble force mul­ti­plier since they ful­fil a mul­ti­tude of mis­sions in a sin­gle plat­form. Un­like he­li­copters and air­craft, am­phibi­ous air­craft can land at the lo­ca­tion and en­force both the will and the law of the coun­try and thus are a plat­form of choice for ful­fill­ing the four key re­quire­ments, namely free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and safety at sea; pro­mote re­gional sta­bil­ity through an open and par­tic­i­pa­tive se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture; proac­tively alle­vi­ate suf­fer­ing dur­ing dis­as­ters in the lit­torals of friendly na­tions: and a con­stab­u­lary ca­pac­ity to main­tain or­der at sea for the com­mon good of the re­gion.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ShinMaywa

ShinMaywa’s US-2i am­phibi­ous air­craft

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