In a bid to boost security around the strategic tri-services Andaman and Nicobar Command and ensure adequate surveillance over the island chain, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is considering acquisition of about six amphibious sea planes that can operate from sea.
“Acquisition of amphibious sea-planes is being considered since these have a much longer range than helicopters which need helipads to land on. The sea planes will be used to move personnel to any of the islands in the chain, many of which are uninhabited. Sea-planes will also perform the task of surveillance,” explained a source.
Most of the islands in the chain are rocky and considered unsuitable for building of helipads on these. Proposed acquisition of the sea planes could come at a cost of over Rs 200 crores.
Following the Mumbai terror attacks, the threat perception of terrorists using the sea route has increased enormously. Further, the government is also anxious to ensure that no terror group is able to operate from and take over any of the uninhabited islands that form part of Indian territory.
Acquisition of amphibious sea planes by the IAF will also boost India’s maritime power and will augment the proposed growth in the aircraft and fleet strength of the Indian Navy which is hoping to acquire more indigenous aircraft carriers and naval fighter aircraft MiG-29 K apart from submarines with air independent propulsion (AIP) and stealth frigates that will be built at Indian shipyards.
In fact, experts at a government conference held last year in the Andamans had called for the establishment of a nuclear power station in one of the islands in the chain and also bases from where aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines could operate.
Experts believe that the tri-services Andaman and Nicobar Command will have an increased significance in the next decade, considering the strategic location of the island.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are geographically located closer to Southeast Asia than even the Indian mainland and give India a strategic presence in the Southeast Asian region.