Im­per­a­tives of Am­phibi­ous Air­craft

Cmde Su­jeet Sa­mad­dar re­views

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Front Page -

In what could have been an­other at­tempt to un­leash havoc on In­dian shores along sim­i­lar lines as the 26/11 ter­ror strikes, the In­dian Coast Guard in­ter­cepted a sus­pi­cious Pak­istani fish­ing boat, laden with ex­plo­sives, in the Ara­bian Sea in the early hours of 1 Jan­uary 2015. De­tected al­most 24 hours ear­lier by a Coast Guard Dornier air­craft, it took a nearby pa­trol ves­sel some 14-16 hours to in­ter­cept the boat. De­spite warn­ing shots the boat did not sur­ren­der and ap­par­ently blew it­self up with the crew and any hard ev­i­dence of ter­ror­ist com­plic­ity in con­duct­ing this op­er­a­tion was lost. An am­phibi­ous air­craft would have pro­vided the ca­pa­bil­ity of rapid and si­mul­ta­ne­ous sur­veil­lance and ar­rest, leav­ing no time for scut­tling or ob­tain­ing di­rec­tions from ‘han­dlers.’ An ar­rest ef­fected by an am­phibi­ous air­craft would have been a huge de­ter­rent to any fu­ture such op­er­a­tions.

Dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion of In­di­ans stranded in Ye­men an ex­pen­sive mil­i­tary force of three war­ships, two In­dian Air Force C- 17 air­craft and two pas­sen­ger ships were utilised, in ad­di­tion to Air In­dia air­lin­ers. The C- 17s and the Air In­dia flights op­er­ated from Dji­bouti while the ships fer­ried evac­uees from Sanaa. A to­tal of about 4,000 In­dian were evac­u­ated over a pe­riod of a month at sub­stan­tial cost and risk. With a tran­sit time di­rect to the Ye­men coast of about 4 hours, am­phib­ian air­craft op­er­at­ing from Mum­bai would have achieved the evac­u­a­tion in per­haps 100-120 sor­ties con­ducted over a pe­riod of 5-7 days by land­ing di­rectly in Ye­meni coastal wa­ters. The cost sav­ings and the op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity that am­phib­ian air­craft pro­vide by way of ac­cess, airspace, sea land­ing ca­pa­bil­ity and im­mi­gra­tion con­trol are ap­par­ent.

On 14 Au­gust 2013, INS Sind­hu­rak­shak was lost to a fire on board. Whilst along­side sev­eral res­cue sys­tems are in place the In­dian Navy would not have been able to or­gan­ise a res­cue ef­fort had the in­ci­dent oc­curred at sea. Only an am­phibi­ous air­craft could have been dis­patched with divers, weld­ing sets and ex­perts to save the sub­ma­rine and more im­por­tantly, its crew. A few decades ago, the world was wit­ness to the tragedy of 7 April 1989, wherein forty-two sub­mariners of a Soviet nu­clear-pow­ered sub­ma­rine died in the Bar­ents Sea, while res­cue air­craft cir­cled pow­er­lessly over­head watched freez­ing sub­mariners per­ish lit­er­ally be­fore their eyes since the res­cue ships had not yet reached the lo­ca­tion. Just one ca­pa­ble am­phibi­ous air­craft would have averted the tragedy. Most im­por­tantly, the hu­man tragedy of the loss of the highly trained and spe­cialised sub­mariners far ex­ceeded the cost of the sub­ma­rine. This is a les­son of his­tory that In­dia can learn, and am­phibi­ous ac­cess is a con­tin­gent ca­pa­bil­ity that In­dia must pos­sess.

MV Pavit, a derelict, washed up un­de­tected on a Mum­bai beach in the early hours of 31 July 2011. About six weeks ear­lier, an­other mer­chant ves­sel, MV Wis­dom, broke tow and ended up on Juhu beach af­ter drift­ing dan­ger­ously close to the Ban­dra-Worli Sea Link bridge. Had the ship col­lided with the Sea Link, there would have been a mas­sive disas­ter. Both ships had pierced the coastal sur­veil­lance en­ve­lope un­de­tected. Such dere­licts are not only haz­ardous upon beach­ing but also are a men­ace to navigational safety at sea. Within a fort­night, MV Rak, sail­ing from In­done­sia

to Da­hej in Gu­jarat with 60,000 tonnes of coal, sank barely 20 nau­ti­cal miles off the Mum­bai coast af­ter de­vel­op­ing two holes in its hull. Air­craft, he­li­copters and ships were un­equal to the task of sal­vaging it. Ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy am­phibi­ous air­craft op­er­at­ing even in rough sea con­di­tions, fer­ry­ing so­phis­ti­cated dam­age con­trol equip­ment and a spe­cial­ist and ex­pe­ri­enced naval team rapidly and di­rectly to the stricken ship would have eas­ily averted this disas­ter.

The most suit­able am­phibi­ous air­craft that can con­duct a near all- weather, high-speed res­cue op­er­a­tion for the en­tire crew of a ditched air­craft is of par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance to the In­dian Navy, and in fact all Ser­vices that op­er­ate long range mis­sions over wa­ter with air­craft such as the Boe­ing P-8I long range mar­itime pa­trol air­craft and MiG-29K deck-based fight­ers of the Navy, to the IAF’s shore based AWACS and MiG-29, Su-30MKI and Jaguar mar­itime in­ter­dic­tion fight­ers. An air­craft is more eas­ily re­placed than its highly trained air­crew. Sim­i­larly, the res­cue of a crew of dis­tressed ship or sub­ma­rine is faster and surer with am­phibi­ous air­craft than us­ing ships or even he­li­copters. Com­bat mis­sions may also be un­der­taken by suit­able am­phibi­ous air­craft. Rapid and pre­ci­sion in­ser­tion and ex­trac­tion of troops along un­de­fended coast­lines for covert or force pro­jec­tion op­er­a­tions is one ex­am­ple. Such an as­set builds con­fi­dence in the crew that they have a very good chance of re­cov­ery even at sea – a ca­pa­bil­ity that does not ex­ist as of now.

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

Am­phib­ian air­craft there­fore 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 IOR wa­ters by next year.

The Am­phib­ian Cen­tury

Am­phib­ian air­craft made their de­but on 28 March 1911 when the Fabre Hy­dravion took-off from wa­ter at Mar­tigues. By end of World War I, am­phib­ians had com­pleted transcon­ti­nen­tal flights and in some in­stances even been re­fu­elled by ships and sub­marines at sea. Post-1918, am­phib­ian air­craft were at their zenith. Af­ter World War II, how­ever, th­ese air­craft lost their charm some­what, al­though lim­ited civil and com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions con­tin­ued.

To­day, mod­ern tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances have made it pos­si­ble for am­phib­ian air­craft to con­duct a va­ri­ety of naval mis­sions rang­ing from be­nign to con­stab­u­lary and even to mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions. In­dian Naval Avi­a­tion, which for­mally ‘ took off’ at Cochin on 11 May 1953, be­gan op­er­at­ing the Short Sealand, an am­phib­ian air­craft, as the first In­dian Naval Air­craft. How­ever, the ca­pa­bil­ity of op­er­at­ing such air­craft faded there­after, as the In­dian Navy pro­gressed to in­duct con­ven­tional air­craft and de­vel­oped a car­rier-borne ca­pa­bil­ity. With the ad­vent of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy in am­phib­ian air­craft,

it is only nat­u­ral that In­dian Navy has now sought to re-ac­quire this unique ca­pa­bil­ity, to truly re­alise its ‘blue wa­ter’ am­bi­tions.

Am­phib­ian air­craft com­bine the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of broad sur­veil­lance and prompt re­sponse, whether for re­lief or ar­rest, in a sin­gle plat­form. Such ca­pa­bil­ity is not avail­able on any other type of air­craft. The mod­ern am­phib­ian air­craft is thus a ver­i­ta­ble force mul­ti­plier since it ful­fils a mul­ti­tude of mis­sions in a sin­gle plat­form. Un­like he­li­copters and con­ven­tional air­craft, am­phib­ian air­craft can land at al­most any lo­ca­tion to en­force both the will and the law of the coun­try and thus are a plat­form of choice for be­nign and con­stab­u­lary mis­sions. Un­like ships, am­phib­ians can reach an area of in­ter­est faster, pre­vent­ing de­struc­tion or dump­ing of con­tra­band and ev­i­dence.

Am­phib­ian multi- util­ity cargo and trans­port air­craft are to­day ca­pa­ble of a va­ri­ety of mis­sions. Un­der Ar­ti­cle 98 of the United Na­tions Con­ven­tions on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), “ev­ery coastal State shall pro­mote the es­tab­lish­ment, op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of an ad­e­quate and ef­fec­tive search and res­cue ser­vice re­gard­ing safety on and over the sea and, where cir­cum­stances so re­quire, by way of mu­tual re­gional ar­range­ments co­op­er­ate with neigh­bour­ing States for this pur­pose.” Am­phib­ian air­craft fit this pur­pose com­pletely.

As re­gards Piracy, one of the most press­ing in­ter­na­tional prob­lems fac­ing the sea­far­ing com­mu­nity to­day, as per the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), mil­i­tary air­craft are “en­ti­tled to seize (Ar­ti­cle 107),” en­joy “right of visit (Ar­ti­cle 110)” and “right of hot pur­suit (Ar­ti­cle 111).” Am­phib­ian air­craft can thus be very use­ful in con­duct­ing an­tipiracy mis­sions and ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive and eco­nomic polic­ing op­er­a­tions for safe and se­cure seas. Once the de­ter­rence value of am­phib­ian air­craft is clearly es­tab­lished by con­duct­ing a few suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tions that bring cul­prits to book, seas will be­come far safer and more se­cure in the fu­ture and at lesser op­er­at­ing cost.

Mul­ti­far­i­ous Mis­sions

Th­ese air­craft can now there­fore be tasked for mul­ti­far­i­ous naval and mar­itime mis­sions such as: Sur­veil­lance, re­con­nais­sance, in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing and on-spot in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the EEZ and on high seas Long range naval lo­gis­tic and main­te­nance sup­port through fer­ry­ing of spe­cialised dock­yard per­son­nel and spares to a Fleet dur­ing over­seas de­ploy­ment Long Range and Rapid Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) op­er­a­tions Main­land to dis­tant is­land and in­ter is­land lo­gis­tic sup­port with­out need of a run­way Long range fleet sup­port in­clud­ing crew ro­ta­tion on high seas Oceanic Search and Res­cue (SAR) and ca­su­alty evac­u­a­tion (CA­SE­VAC) from ships, sub­marines and oil­rigs Mon­i­tor­ing, ser­vic­ing and pro­tec­tion of off­shore as­sets Con­trol­ling of dere­licts and aban­doned ves­sels Hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and disas­ter re­lief op­er­a­tions in the In­dian Ocean Re­gion Coun­ter­ing small arms, shoul­der launched weapons and drugs traf­fick­ing and ter­ror­ism at sea Coun­ter­ing il­le­gal hu­man mi­gra­tion Preven­tion of poach­ing and il­le­gal fish­ing Preven­tion of toxic cargo dump­ing at sea and pol­lu­tion con­trol Anti-piracy mis­sions Anti ter­ror­ism Sup­port for deep sea min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, off­shore ca­ble lay­ing and hy­dro­car­bon prospect­ing Re­cov­ery of ditched air­crew at sea Di­rect and rapid ac­cess to the In­dian out­post ‘ Bharati’ in An­tar­tica. For In­dia, as­pir­ing to re­gional power sta­tus, its Navy must not only be able to ad­dress the im­me­di­ate se­cu­rity needs of the coun­try and de­feat the en­e­mies of the state but must also 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; se­condly, 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. It’s unique multi-modal de­sign per­mits air­borne, seaborne and land op­er­a­tions in a sin­gle plat­form and thus is a highly ef­fec­tive force mul­ti­plier for the In­dian Navy.

The Strate­gic Di­men­sions

Strate­gi­cally, In­dia must bear in mind that China is also in the process of de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­ture of the ‘Jia­long’ (Wa­ter Dragon) AG600 am­phib­ian air­craft. This air­craft is po­ten­tially the largest am­phib­ian air­craft in the world. Me­dia re­ports sug­gest that fi­nal as­sem­bly of the air­craft would be com­pleted by end-2015 and first flight ten­ta­tively sched­uled for mid-2016. The air­craft is ex­pected to ser­vice the many ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands be­ing built by China in the South China Sea and to in­crease China’s pres­ence in the In­dian Ocean Re­gion. It is also aimed at tap­ping the po­ten­tial global com­mer­cial am­phib­ian mar­ket.

In ad­di­tion to re­quire­ments of the In­dian Armed Forces and var­i­ous mil­i­tary users of am­phibi­ous air­craft, it is also worth con­sid­er­ing the ap­pli­ca­tions of such a plat­form in the com­mer­cial sec­tor. As per lat­est re­ports of IATA and other avi­a­tion pro­fes­sional agen­cies, an­nual air traf­fic growth rate of 10.5% and higher has been al­most con­stant over the last decade and is ex­pected to be even higher in the com­ing years. Con­se­quently, the ca­pac­ity over­load of cur­rent air­ports and the de­mand for point-to-point con­nec­tions need se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion. The Govern­ment’s Draft Civil Avi­a­tion Pol­icy, 2015, has listed sev­eral ini­tia­tives and pol­icy di­rec­tions for the growth of the com­mer­cial avi­a­tion sec­tor in In­dia. The aim of the In­dian Govern­ment is to pro­vide an eco-sys­tem and level play­ing field to var­i­ous avi­a­tion sub-sec­tors, i.e. air­lines, air­ports, cargo, main­te­nance re­pairs and over­haul ser­vices, gen­eral avi­a­tion, aero­space man­u­fac­tur­ing, skill de­vel­op­ment, and so on. The Govern­ment has also pro­posed to take "fly­ing to the masses" by mak­ing it more af­ford­able. For ex­am­ple, if ev­ery In­dian in the middle-class

in­come bracket were to take just one flight per year, it would re­sult in a sale of 300 mil­lion tick­ets, a big jump from the 70 mil­lion do­mes­tic tick­ets sold in 2014-15. This will be pos­si­ble if air­fares, es­pe­cially on re­gional routes, are brought down to an af­ford­able level. The growth in avi­a­tion will cre­ate a larger mul­ti­plier ef­fect in terms of in­vest­ments, tourism and em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially for un­skilled and semi-skilled work­ers.

Based on this pol­icy and the vast coast­line and sev­eral ex­otic is­lands in the Lakhshad­weep and An­daman Seas that In­dia is en­dowed with the stage is set to cre­ate a pos­i­tively buoy­ant mar­ket for sea­planes or am­phib­ians as a mode of civil air trans­porta­tion in the fu­ture. With the an­tic­i­pated growth in civil avi­a­tion, land­based air­ports would be burst­ing at the seams to ac­com­mo­date in­creased pas­sen­ger and freight traf­fic. More­over, new air­ports would re­quire ad­di­tional real es­tate, with at­ten­dant land ac­qui­si­tion is­sues and sub­stan­tial cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture to­ward as­so­ci­ated in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment. In­duc­tion of am­phibi­ous air­craft in the com­mer­cial seg­ment would not only de­con­gest ex­ist­ing air­ports loads but would also al­low the use of sea ports as an al­ter­nate op­er­at­ing area for civil avi­a­tion.

Var­i­ous mar­ket seg­ments for po­ten­tial use of am­phib­ian air­craft in the civil ap­pli­ca­tion are: Leisure and tourism/ semi-com­mer­cial seg­ment, which is presently the largest seg­ment for sea­planes/ am­phib­ian air­craft. Com­muter mar­ket seg­ment: while the tra­di­tional com­muter traf­fic of­fers sched­uled flights from smaller air­ports to the hubs or point–to-point con­nec­tions be­tween smaller air­ports, the am­phib­ian air­craft could pro­vide three al­ter­na­tive vari­ants in the lo­cal pas­sen­ger trans­porta­tion seg­ment:Flight from the near­est ma­jor land air­port to the sea­port or re­turn. Flight be­tween two wa­ter land­ing fields. Flight be­tween a land air­port and sea port lo­cated at a far dis­tance (flight be­tween se­lected large air­ports and is­land tourist re­sorts) Spe­cial mar­kets for cargo move­ment and fire-fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity could use am­phibi­ous ca­pa­bil­i­ties very ef­fec­tively. At the in­ter­na­tional level, com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions of sea­planes are al­ready en­joy­ing great suc­cess in the Mal­dives and Mau­ri­tius is­lands, as also in Poly­ne­sia, the Mediter­ranean and the North At­lantic re­gion in­clud­ing the Great Lakes, where lo­cal oper­a­tors are us­ing more than 70 sea­planes. How­ever, th­ese air­craft are lim­ited to less than 19 pas­sen­gers, and cover short dis­tances at low speeds. Longer en­durance and higher speed sea­planes with the abil­ity to tackle rough seas are likely to be a favoured mode of trans­porta­tion for tourist traf­fic, par­tic­u­larly since the de­mand for ex­otic and dis­tant lo­cales are on the rise. This would also spur a de­mand for freight and cargo to sus­tain th­ese re­sorts.

With the growth of such plat­forms, new traf­fic routes can be de­vel­oped with the ad­van­tage of short flights, in­clud­ing point- to- point con­nec­tions to na­tional and in­ter­na­tional air­ports us­ing nat­u­ral land­ing strips on the sea. Sched­uled com­muter sea­plane/am­phib­ian op­er­a­tions are non- ex­is­tent in the In­dian mar­ket though they pro­lif­er­ate in Canada, Malta and the Pa­cific is­lands al­ready. Very lim­ited sea­plane ser­vices are be­ing used in the An­daman Is­lands, Ker­ala and Maharashtra, as the cur­rent In­dian mar­ket and air­craft oper­a­tors not only lack a mod­ern sea­plane of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and reg­u­la­tions they also face non-ex­is­tent in­fra­struc­ture and com­plete lack of ex­per­tise in main­te­nance and op­er­a­tions of mid-size am­phib­ians as re­gional trans­port air­craft.

An In­dian Am­phib­ian

With such ca­pa­bil­ity al­ready on the verge of in­duc­tion into the In­dian Armed Forces, in the re­cent fu­ture, it would be worth a mea­sured guess that the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture, op­er­at­ing phi­los­o­phy and

main­te­nance in­fra­struc­ture in­clud­ing MRO tech­nol­ogy of such air­craft would also be cre­ated in In­dia. The Govern­ment has been in the process of de­vel­op­ing In­dia’s own Re­gional Trans­port Air­craft (RTA) un­der the aegis of NAL and HAL. It would be worth­while there­fore to carry out a cost ben­e­fit anal­y­sis and ex­plore the fea­si­bil­ity of an in­dige­nously- de­signed am­phib­ian air­craft as the In­dian re­gional trans­port air­craft for meet­ing both do­mes­tic and ex­port de­mand. This may make good busi­ness sense since the RTA mar­ket is al­ready over­crowded with the lead play­ers such as Bom­bardier, Em­braer, ATR and more re­cently some Chi­nese and Rus­sian en­try level air­craft for this seg­ment with mul­ti­far­i­ous prod­uct pro­files.

Th­ese con­sid­er­a­tions cer­tainly cre­ate the pos­si­bil­ity of a po­ten­tial busi­ness op­por­tu­nity with new tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tive ap­pli­ca­tions that can find a suf­fi­ciently vi­brant po­ten­tial cus­tomer base. It may there­fore be a vi­able op­tion for the Govern­ment to con­sider a tech­ni­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion or part­ner­ship with an es­tab­lished am­phibi­ous air­craft man­u­fac­turer to de­velop the RTA as an am­phibi­ous plat­form for com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions which is a niche mar­ket with very lim­ited play­ers in both the do­mes­tic and global mar­ket and thus may of­fer sub­stan­tial op­por­tu­nity for In­dia to be an ex­porter of am­phibi­ous air­craft.

In ad­di­tion to the ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits of low in­fra­struc­ture re­quire­ments, pointto-point con­nec­tiv­ity and decongesting of present air­ports, with ad­e­quate num­bers, com­mon­al­ity of plat­form and main­te­nance in­fra­struc­ture even the op­er­at­ing cost of such a plat­form could be re­duced to a great ex­tent for both mil­i­tary and civil oper­a­tors. It must be un­der­stood that there are many is­land ter­ri­to­ries in the In­dian sub-con­ti­nent with poor ac­ces­si­bil­ity. Ac­ces­si­bil­ity can be im­proved dras­ti­cally by in­tro­duc­tion of am­phib­ian air traf­fic. Such op­er­a­tions that would con­nect dis­tant is­lands with the main­land will have sev­eral down­stream ben­e­fits of de­vel­op­ing th­ese ar­eas and re­lo­cat­ing pop­u­la­tions, en­hanc­ing tourism rev­enues and cre­at­ing a mod­ern aero­space in­dus­try in In­dia.

The mar­ket de­mand is promis­ing if am­phib­ian air­craft/sea­planes could pro­vide com­pet­i­tive flights to in­ac­ces­si­ble is­land ar­eas or coastal lo­ca­tions or to in­dus­trial/ busi­ness ar­eas by sav­ing valu­able time com­pared to other avail­able means of trans­porta­tion. For many pas­sen­gers, am­phibi­ous/sea­plane op­er­a­tions may of­fer that ‘unique’ or ‘spe­cial’ type of jour­ney and also pro­vide aero­nau­ti­cal cul­ture op­por­tu­nity to peo­ple who do not live close to the es­tab­lished air­ports. Last but not least, am­phibi­ous air­craft/ sea­planes may pro­vide a ' sense of free­dom' for pas­sen­gers to move out­side the ar­ti­fi­cial world of air­ports, con­trolled airspace and aero­nau­ti­cal bu­reau­cracy.

So, while the am­phibi­ous air­craft is a force mul­ti­plier for mar­itime forces the time has come for In­dia to carry out a se­ri­ous study to­wards the rel­e­vance of ‘fly­ing boats’ in eas­ing the ever-in­creas­ing de­mand of 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 Short Take Off and Land­ing ( STOL) abil­ity, high sea state op­er­a­tions, good pay­load, long range and high-speed flight is a ne­ces­sity for suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tions.

Cmde Su­jeet Sa­mad­dar, NM (Retd)

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