H 187 Hovercraft in the fleet of Indian Coast Guard
Pune 16 Aug 2017 (PCP NEWS Devendra Jain) : Today the Center has approved a 31,748 crore “Definitive five-year Action Program” for the Coast Guard, which is the Ministry of Defense’s smallest Armed Force after the Army, IAF and Navy but whose role has become crucial ever since the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai in 2008, which is to help the local Police force also.
Sources of PCP News said, the action plan to bolster the force-levels of Coast Guard in terms of offshore Patrol Vessels, Boats, Helicopters, Aircraft and Critical Operational Infrastructure was cleared at a meeting chaired by Defense secretary Sanjay Mitra. The action plan intends to “Consolidate the Progress” made by the Coast Guard, which is currently headed by Rajendra Singh as the Director General, after the 26/11 strikes punched gaping holes in the country’s coastal security architecture. The force, however, now also acts as the “Lead Intelligence Agency for Coastal and Sea Borders”. The 26/11 Mumbai carnage, after all, had exposed the lack of ‘Critical Connectivity’ between Intelligence Agencies and Security Agencies. With an existing manpower of around 1,600 officers, 9,000 uniformed personnel and 1,200 civilians, the Coast Guard primarily has a non-military maritime security charter, except during war when it conjoins with the Navy for National Defense Operations.
India has a 7,516-km coastline, with 1,382 islands and a sprawling Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.01 million sq km, which will go up to almost 3 million sq km after delimitation of the Continental Shelf. The aim is to make the Coast Guard a 175 Ship and 110 Aircraft Force by 2022 to plug operational gaps and strengthen its capabilities to safeguard coastal security, island territories, offshore assets and marine environment as well as undertake anti-piracy, anti-smuggling, oil-spill and pollution-control operations.
The force already has 65 ships and Interceptor Crafts Boats under construction. Moreover, the acquisition of 30 helicopters for over 5,000 crore is also underway, said a source. While 16 indigenous Dhruv choppers have already been ordered from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, the procurement of 14 twin-engine EC-725 tactical choppers, which can carry up to 30 passengers, from Airbus is in the final stages of approval now.
With Coast Guard also looking for six more maritime multi-mission surveillance aircraft, the force will also get five more air stations/enclaves to add to the nine such establishments already present. “The existing 42 stations (20 were sanctioned after 26/11), under the five regional headquarters at Gandhinagar, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Port Blair, will also be fully-developed and made ‘Smart’ with better infrastructure,” said the source. PCP/DJ 13 30