Friday, November 27, 2009

Gov must expedite the process to have air enclave in Gujarat

AHMEDABAD: The key to success in the modern day warfare-full-scale, limited, conventional or unconventional- lies in one's capability to collect intelligence and use it before his enemies get the better of him. In the past two decades, there have been many instances where India has failed on this count and had to pay heavy price for the intelligence lapses, the most recent one being the 26/11.

Subsequently, the Central government decided to set up a coastal command under the Indian Navy to plug the loopholes in maritime intelligence.

However, there is much to be desired on this front, particularly as the Indian Navy's plan to have an air enclave in Porbandar is yet to see the light of the day. Had the Indian Navy's air enclave been operationalized, it would have improved surveillance and reconnaissance in the region considering India's most potent danger lies in the west along Gujarat's land and maritime borders.

The Indian Navy to a large extent has enhanced surveillance in the southern peninsula by commissioning its first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) squadron at Kochi in 2006. It plans to operate UAVs from the Naval Air Station at Uchipuli in Tamil Nadu too. However, what one fails to understand is what it is that is holding it to place UAVs at Porbander when the infrastructure is ready in the form of Indian Coast Guard's air enclave at Porbandar. The Coast Guard has fixed wing aircraft and helicopters at the air enclave, which can be very well be used by the Indian Navy's UAVs.

The UAV is very much part of the operations of a wing of the Indian Armed Forces in Gujarat. This could be the one reason why the Central government is taking time in deciding to allow the Indian Navy to set up a base of UAV at Porbandar, sources said.

When contacted, the Indian Navy officials said the plan to have an air enclave in Porbandar is very much on. It requires lot of work in terms of planning and logistics to set up an infrastructure at a place like Porbandar which has limited resources. They said by another couple of months, the Indian Navy's air enclave in Porbandar should be ready.

The Navy operates Searcher MK II and Heron UAVs imported from Israel. The Searcher Mark II can remain airborne for 16 hours and has a maximum range of 150 km and operates up to an altitude of 18,500 feet. The Heron has a range of 1,000 km and operates at an altitude of 30,000 ft.

Deployment of unmanned combat aerial vehicle in Gujarat should be a natural progression to the plan. It will not only help in surveillance but fire on identified targets and could be very useful in Gujarat with a large tract of uninhabited land and coastline which are vulnerable. 

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