New Delhi: To boost its surveillance and search and rescue capabilities, the Indian Coast Guard has proposed to induct 38 more aircraft and helicopters into its fleet by 2020.
The expansion plan will see the maritime security force acquire Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), Twin-engine Helicopters and Maritime Multi-mission Surveillance Aircraft (MMSA). The CG at present has a fleet of 62 airplanes and helicopters.
In the next three-four months, it is going to sign a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for procuring 16 ALHs, official sources said.
It is also exploring options to buy 14 twin-engine heavy helicopters. The Coast Guard is eyeing Airbus's Eurocopeter but it may take a couple of years to actually acquire these as a proposal in this regard is pending with the Ministry of Defence.
"We have been looking to procure twin-engine helicopters that can help in making long trips in the sea. The current Chetak helicopters do not have the ability to go deep over the sea. The twin-engine helicopters can make longer trips.
"They can be used in areas where we don't have air strips, for instance, in Minicoy and many such places," said a senior government official.
Air assets have often played a crucial role in the Indian Coast Guard's operations. When the suspicious Pakistani boat carrying explosives blew itself up on the night of December 31, 2014, off the Gujarat coast, the operation was conducted jointly by the air and sea wings of the maritime security force.
The Coast Guard is also looking for six more Maritime Multi-mission Surveillance Aircraft. However, CG is waiting for the Indian Air Force to be ready with a proposal as it wants to buy the aircraft together.
"The Staff Qualitative Requirements (SQRs) of the Coast Guard and Air Force are same. So, we are waiting for their proposal to get ready and then we can buy it together. However, the purpose of the two will be different and modifications to the aircraft will be done as per the requirements of the two forces," the official said.