IAF working with Coast Guard, Navy to combat pirate menace

THE HINDU

The Indian Air Force (IAF) was working in tandem with the Navy and the Coast Guard to curb the pirate menace which threatens international shipping in India’s area of influence, outgoing Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Air Command, Air Marshal Sumit Mukerji said here on Thursday.

He said pirate vessels operating out of the ports and harbours on the northern coast of Somalia had also been spotted on the international waters “reasonably close” to the Lakshadweep Islands. He said these pirates used conventional sea boats for their operations. They hid their vessels among fishing boats, making it difficult for pilots to distinguish brigand vessels from the air till the pirates attacked their shipping targets. The pirates possibly possessed shoulder fired missile launchers or anti-aircraft guns to ward off airborne threats.

Air force officials believe that the pirates, who take sailors as hostage and then release them on the payment of huge ransom, could increase their attacks when the Arabian Sea grows calm after the monsoon.

One official said that pirates, thriving on the alleged lawlessness in Somalia, could use hijacked ships to extend their reach into Indian waters.

The latest incident involving Somali seafarers near the Indian coast was on June 20 when Gujarat police arrested 17 of them, including three Yemeni nationals, after their boat’s engine failed and they were stranded in the sea for over a month.

The Air Marshal also said the IAF would acquire Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) equipped with ground attack missiles.

The IAF currently uses two types of advanced pilotless remote controlled air craft for surveillance and reconnaissance. It is also reported to possess a UCAV designed to target enemy radars and ground-based air defence systems.

The IAF would base Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) with maritime surveillance capabilities along with two squadrons each of the Sukhoi-30 and the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) at its upgraded air bases in Thanjavur and Sulur in Tamil Nadu.

The air force stations would also become the home base of one of the recently inducted Russian IL-76 platform-based Israeli Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACs) and an IL-78-based midair refuelling tanker.

The Air Marshall said these assets would help the IAF advance its strategic doctrine of exerting a stabilizing influence over the Indian Ocean from the straits of Malacca to the straits of Hormuz. China’s growing influence in the region, particularly its access to harbours and ports, was a matter of concern.

The veteran fighter pilot was commissioned into the IAF in 1972 and has over 3,700 hours of fighter flying experience.

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Posted by pilotpaul on Jul 1 2011. Filed under All News, Coast Guard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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