Navy to commission UAV squadron at Porbandar on January 17

Navy to commission UAV squadron at Porbandar on January 17
New Delhi, 6 January, 2011

Aiming at enhancing coastal surveillance capabilities, the Navy is going to commission a squadron of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) at Porbandar in Gujarat on January 17.

The squadron will comprise Israeli-made Searcher and Heron UAVs and would help in enhancing our surveillance capabilities off the coast of Gujarat.

The Indian Navy had commissioned its first UAV reconnaissance squadron at its base in Kochi in January, 2006 and is one of the few maritime forces to be using such equipment.

The Navy is also planning to acquire high-altitude long endurance (HALE) UAVs.

In an RFI (Request For Information) issued recently, the Navy has specified that it wants a platform with at least 25 hours mission endurance, an all up weight of no more than 15 tons, service ceiling of 40,000 feet and cruise speed of 100 knots.

The Navy presently uses a small mix of Israeli Heron and Searcher Mk2 UAVs, and is making efforts to acquire shipborne unmanned rotorcraft.

Post 26/11, India has taken several measures to strengthen coastal security after terrorists sailed close to the Gujarat coast in a dhow and reached Mumbai to launch multiple attacks on various targets.

To plug gaps in the radar coverage of its over 7,500 km coastline, the Government has also decided to deploy coastal surveillance radars atop 90 light houses along both the eastern and western sea boards.

Under the plan, the light houses would also be fitted with cameras capable of operating during both day and night to keep an eye on the movement of vessels in coastal areas.

The first naval UAV squadron (INAS 342) has been operational at Kochi for the last few years. After Kochi and Porbandar, new naval UAV squadrons are earmarked for Uchipuli in Tamil Nadu and Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. As part of Navy’s three-tier aerial surveillance grid for the Indian Ocean Region, the drones are already being used for innermost layer reconnaissance up to 200 nautical miles.