Sea­planes for Maritime Safety and Se­cu­rity

The sea­planes have util­ity that is truly unique. There­fore, it is in­deed to the credit of the In­dian Navy to have com­menced the process of ac­qui­si­tion of a valu­able mod­ern as­set—the am­phib­ian air­craft



THE IN­DIAN NAVY’S AC­QUI­SI­TION plans should aim at achiev­ing risk re­duc­tion by cre­at­ing a bal­anced force that off­sets any re­gional in­equities, main­tains cred­i­ble ca­pa­bil­ity and is com­men­su­rate with In­dia’s grow­ing sta­tus as a re­spon­si­ble maritime power. The In­dian Navy first and fore­most should work with the sim­ple ob­jec­tive of de­feat­ing the en­e­mies of the state. But as a ris­ing power, the In­dian Navy will also have to take early baby steps to live up to the global as­pi­ra­tions and re­gional com­mit­ments, par­tic­u­larly to meet the be­nign and con­stab­u­lary func­tions of a pow­er­ful Navy—a ver­i­ta­ble force for good. These func­tions in­clude stand­ing surety for the safety of the SLOCs that criss-cross the North In­dian Ocean and at least up to the Straits of Malacca; de­liver ex­tended search and res­cue (SAR) and hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance dur­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters (HAND) to the lit­toral nations of the In­dian Ocean Re­gion. De­vel­op­ment of such ca­pa­bil­i­ties and in­duc­tion of the ap­pro­pri­ate en­abling sys­tems sig­nals a firm re­gional com­mit­ment to­wards con­tin­ued re­gional sta­bil­ity and maritime safety and is also an af­fir­ma­tion of de­liv­er­ing on the nat­u­ral re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that come with great power sta­tus.

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. While ships, sub­marines and air­craft are all qual­i­fied in some way or the other for ful­fill- ing the above mis­sions, each of these plat­forms are lim­ited by some ca­pa­bil­ity gap or the other. In ad­di­tion, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of as­sets to at­tack by en­emy forces or by nat­u­ral forces pose a real prob­lem to timely and op­por­tune de­ploy­ment in cri­sis. Sea­planes make pos­si­ble a range of op­tions not achiev­able by any other plat­form.

Al­though sea­planes were first in­ducted into naval op­er­a­tions as early as March 1911, mod­ern tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances has now made it pos­si­ble for sea­planes to con­duct a va­ri­ety of op­er­a­tions rang­ing from be­nign, con­stab­u­lary and even mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions. Sea­planes for In­dia are a ver­i­ta­ble force mul­ti­plier as these can ful­fil a mul­ti­tude of mis­sions. These can be to pro­vide much needed is­land sup­port of the An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands and the Lak­shad­weep Is­lands; off­shore as­sets pro­tec­tion; sur­veil­lance and in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing for en­hanced maritime do­main aware­ness; transoceanic SAR and ca­su­alty evac­u­a­tion (CASEVAC); ex­tended range fleet lo­gis­tic sup­port dur­ing long de­ploy­ments in­clud­ing fer­ry­ing spares and main­te­nance per­son­nel di­rectly to the af­fected ship; long-range visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) op­er­a­tions; HAND op­er­a­tions; coun­ter­ing small arms and drugs traf­fick­ing, hu­man mi­gra­tion, poach­ing, toxic cargo dump­ing, etc. In ad­di­tion, sea­planes can be de­ployed for spe­cial op­er­a­tions by Com­man­dos and re­cov­ery by sea post com­ple­tion of the op­er­a­tion in the is­lands and lit­toral ar­eas.

Un­der 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 in co­op­er­a­tion with neigh­bour­ing states for this pur­pose.” Sea­planes fit this pur­pose com­pletely. As re­gards piracy, one of the more press­ing in­ter­na­tional prob­lems fac­ing sea­far­ing community to­day is as the UNCLOS states “[A] seizure on ac­count of piracy may be car­ried out only by war­ships or mil­i­tary air­craft, or other ships or air­craft, clearly marked and iden­ti­fi­able as be­ing on gov­ern­ment ser­vice and au­tho­rised to that ef­fect.” This is an­other func­tion that mil­i­tary sea­planes can eas­ily do with greater speed and far lesser cost. The ‘Right of Visit’ and ‘Right of Hot Pur­suit’ is mu­tatis mu­tan­dis, also ap­pli­ca­ble to mil­i­tary air­craft and once again sea­planes are a very suit­able ve­hi­cle for this task. Thus, even un­der UNCLOS, the sea­planes are an ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive and eco­nomic op­tion for safe and se­cure seas.

The sea­planes have util­ity that is truly unique. There­fore, it is in­deed to the credit of the In­dian Navy to have com­menced the process of ac­qui­si­tion of a valu­able mod­ern as­set—the am­phib­ian air­craft. A re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) for in­duc­tion of sea­planes was is­sued early last year. It is re­ported that the ma­jor con­tenders are Bombardier, Beriev and ShinMaywa. Of them, the most ad­vanced and ver­sa­tile air­craft and the only air­craft in-ser­vice by any Navy and built to mil­i­tary spec­i­fi­ca­tions is the ShinMaywa’s US-2. The US-2 uses the same en­gines and pro­pel­lers as the C130J, and thereby, com­mon main­te­nance ef­forts will be re­quired which would re­duce op­er­a­tional costs. The US-2 is the best in class prod­uct.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: Shinmaywa

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