First the good news. Faced with the prospect of combatting the increasing incidents of piracy off the Lakshadweep group of islands in the southern Arabian Sea, both the Indian Navy (IN) and the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) have begun a crash programme to upgrade the all-weather maritime surveillance capabilities of their respective coastal maritime patrol aircraft and fast attack craft. The Navy, early last February, reportedly inked a contract of undisclosed value with Elbit Systems Electro-Optics Ltd (Elop) Ltd. (Elop) for procuring MicroCoMPASS (micro-compact multi-purpose advanced stabilised system) turret-mounted, multi-spectral optronic sensors, which will be fitted on board the 11 HAL-built Do-228-211s now in delivery to the Navy, as well as on all 10 of the 600-tonne waterjet-driven fast attack craft (WJ-FAC) that were built for the Navy by the Ministry of Defence-owned, Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE). Also to be equipped with the CoMPASS (compact multi-purpose advanced stabilised system) in future will be the Indian Coast Guard Service’s seven 270-tonne extra-fast patrol vessels (XFPV) and twenty 260-tonne fast patrol vessels (FPV), all of which were built by the MoD-owned Goa Shipyard Ltd; the 16 Do-228 maritime patrol aircraft that have already been ordered; and on the 12 Griffon 8000TD hovercraft that are now in delivery by GRSE. The MoD had awarded a £34 million contract in late July last year to UK-based Griffon Hoverwork for the supply of these hovercraft for the ICG, the tender for which had been released in November 2009. At 21.3 metres in length and with a payload of 8 tonnes, the 8000TD can reach speeds of 45 Knots and is powered by two Iveco diesel engines. The ICG had earlier acquired six 8000TDs in 2001, two of which were built at Griffon Hoverwork, with the following four being assembled by GRSE. Presently, only the seven Super Dvora Mk2 fast patrol vessels (built by Israel Aerospace Industries’ RAMTA Division) of the Navy are fitted with MicroCoMPASS systems.
The ICG presently operates 28 Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd-built Do-228-201 maritime patrol aircraft and will receive another 16 by 2013. The US$20 million contract for equipping them with CoMPASS optronic turrets was inked last month. To be inked in future are two contracts—one pertaining to the acquisition of 30 twin-engined helicopters (in all probability the AgustaWestland-built AW-139, with each of them equipped with search radars with weather monitoring modes), and up to six medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft (MRMR) worth Rs11 billion, for which the Beriev Be-200 amphibian and Bombardier Aerospace’s Dash 8Q-400MPA have been shortlisted. The ICG had conducted flight trials of both these contenders last February. The Dash 8Q-400 is being proposed as a versatile platform equipped with the EL/I-3360 mission management suite sourced from Israel Aerospace Industries’ ELTA Systems Ltd subsidiary. The suite includes a chin-mounted MSOP FLIR turret and a belly-mounted EL/M-2022(V)2 search radar. Also due for acquisition by the ICH are a hundred 12.7mm machine guns, seventy 20mm machine guns, thirty-six 30mm machine guns, and thirty-six 40mm guns, all for integration on its existing and future vessels. Separately, the ICG has also floated tenders for six new 2,000-tonne offshore patrol vessels, 14 fast patrol vessels and 20 new interceptor craft. It appears that the private-sector Bharti Shipyard, which was earlier reported to be the frontrunner for winning the tender for building six 2,000-tonne AOPVs for the ICG, is now reportedly no longer the MoD’s favourite to win the tender, and it appears highly likely that GRSE will bag the contract instead.
For coastal maritime patrol/SAR operations, an initial three Do-228-201 twin-turboprop STOL coastal maritime patrol aircraft of the ICG have each been fitted with the Swedish Space Corp-built MSS-6000 airborne maritime surveillance system, which comprises a SLAR (side-looking airborne radar (SLAR); an infra-red/ultra-violet (IR/UV) linescanner; high-resolution digital photography camera and a video system. Data from all systems is processed, integrated and presented in one integrated view to the operator. All recordings are annotated with GPS data and digitally stored in an on board geographical database. Information from the sensors will be accessible from the operator’s console. It is displayed in real-time and is tightly integrated with a tactical map. The map will contain the current aircraft position and time marks on the flight track. The map image has a large number of operator selectable overlays such as background information (territorial borders, EEZ borders, exclusion zones etc), geo-corrected overlays from SLAR, IR/UV, observation and target notes as well as notes on location of captured images from cameras. This gives the right support to the MSS-6000 operator in every situation. All information from the mission is saved and can be compiled in mission reports and/or sent on to ground station and other units. Data and digital images are presented integrated with an electronic nautical chart database, and also correlated with the mission report, all at the fingertips of the user, to ensure maximum efficiency during routine surveillance as well as in emergency situations. The MSS-6000’s mission software also allows transmission of data to the ground in real-time as well as replay and analysis of the recorded mission on a separate ground workstation.
Now to the bad news, based on the latest revelations of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India. As per the ICG’s in-house analysis (for the 2002-2007 Plan), it requires 175 ships and 221 aircraft for effective patrolling of the EEZ, coastal and shallow waters. Against this, the ICG had only 68 ships/vessels and 45 aircraft as of January 2008. Out of the 28 ships/vessels available with for patrolling of the entire West Coast, 16 ships/vessels, of all types, were based in the Maharashtra and Gujarat areas. Ten ships in 2007 and 14 ships/vessels in 2008 and 2009 deployed in the Maharashtra and Gujarat area were responsible for Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) patrolling. Compared to the force levels of 122 vessels envisaged in the Perspective Plan for the period 1985-2000, the ICG had by December 2010 possessed only 65% of the required force level in terms of ships and vessels. With respect to the aviation arm, the corresponding figure was 48%. As of December 2010, the ICG had not processed the cases for acquisition of deep-sea patrol vessels (DSPV), medium patrol vessels (MPV) and aerostats, even though they were envisaged in the Perspective Plan 1985–2000. During the 9th Plan (1997-2002) period the ICG was able to achieve only about 50 per cent of the targeted acquisitions. During the 10th Plan (2002-2007) period, of the 61 ships/vessels planned for acquisition, the procurement action for only 26 ships/ vessels could be finalised, i.e. a mere 43%. More importantly, not a single acquisition fructified in the plan period against the planned targets. The ICG acquired 12 vessels, against the contracted-for 26, well after the plan period, only by December 2010. The procurement action for the remaining 35 vessels was carried over to the 11th Plan period (2007-2012). Of these 35 vessels, only 27 vessels had been contracted for by December 2010. Although new projects have been sanctioned during the 11th Plan period and projects pertaining to previous Plans will be completed during this period, taking into account the planned decommissioning of ships, it would be difficult for the ICG to achieve the Perspective Plan (1985-2000) force levels even by 2012 i.e. by the end of the 11th Plan. The deficiency would be to the extent of 17% and 45% in respect of vessels and aircraft. Presently, 72% of FPVs/IPVs, 47% of AOPVs/OPVs and 37% of interceptor boats are either on extended life or their extended life has also expired. Three OPVs meant to be decommissioned in 2003, 2005 and 2006 still remain in service as the contract for their replacement was signed only in February 2006 and the replacements were expected between February 2010 and November 2011. Thirteen IPVs were to be decommissioned between 1998 and 2006. However, approval of the MoD’s Defence Acquisition Council under the ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ clause was obtained only in August 2006. The contract was concluded in March 2009 and the first vessel is expected to be delivered by August 2011 only, i.e. 12 years after the first vessel was due for decommissioning.
The night patrolling capabilities of the Hellraiser and Invader families of Interceptor Craft (IC), which were imported from Greece, are limited in view of the non-availability of dedicated COTS-based navigational radars (like those from FURONO) with them. In addition, the non-availability of night vision binoculars/goggles on-board also affected their efficacy for dark-hour patrols. The ICG also lacks vital equipment such as hand-held GPS receivers, night-vision binoculars, SAR transponders, and emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB).
The ICG presently has government sanction to operate four squadrons of Do-228s, four squadrons of SA.316B Alouette-III/Chetak helicopters and one squadron of Dhruv ALH helicopter. As high as 82% of the Chetaks and 54% of the Do-228s are more than 15 years old. This age profile compares unfavourably with the prescribed life of Chetaks (15 years) and that of Do-228s (25 years). In order to meet its requirements primarily for SAR and afloat operations, the Coast Guard’s Development Plan for 1992-1997 had provided for the acquisition of two twin-engined helicopters for which the ICG had identified the HAL-built Dhruv ALH. However, first ALH was delivered in March 2002 and second ALH was received in March 2003. The ICG concluded the contract only in March 2003 with the MoD-owned HAL. Subsequently, a third and fourth Dhruv ALH were received in March 2004 and March 2005, respectively, without any government sanction and contract. The availability of Dhruv ALHs was poor as they remained under evaluation since service induction (2002-2005) till May 2009. Even during evaluation, their serviceability ranged from 21% to 40% and the entire Dhruv ALH fleet was grounded in November 2005 and flying was re-started only in January 2007. Even after seven years of induction of the first helicopter and after incurring an expenditure of Rs162.03 crore, the Dhruv ALH still does not meet the ICG’s operational requirements. The Dhruv ALH is thus being exploited only for basic flying as the present state of the helicopters precludes accomplishment of any mission-oriented flying. The Dhruv ALHs in ICG service have not yet been fitted with weather radars, which is a major limitation. Fitment of operational role equipment has also been kept in abeyance. Consequently, these helicopters can neither be exploited for SAR missions nor for afloat operations, pending the resolution of many issues, including rescue hoist trials and certification, structural provisions for SAR operations (like fitment of floatation gear), radar flickering and Doppler failure (of the DRDO-developed and BEL-built Supervision SV-2000 chin-mounted radar), and AFCS software updates for auto-hover capability. Furthermore, fleet serviceability has been poor. On an average the ICG’s Dhruv ALHs have spent more time at HAL’s facilities than with the squadron since their induction. In September 2007, for every Dhruv ALH, out of 100 hours of flying undertaken by the helicopter, only 30 hours and 40 minutes contributed towards service flying and the remaining was towards maintenance test-flights. The helicopter has been plagued by premature component failures and frequent groundings for complying mandatory servicing instructions and modifications. Lastly, the shipborne deployment has not yet been achieved due to problems in blade-folding even though the ICG’s two newly inducted AOPVs have been specifically designed to accommodate the Dhruv ALH on board. The ICG has a total requirement of 12 twin-engined helicopters against which it presently has four Dhruv ALHs. However, due to extreme dissatisfaction with these helicopters, the IUCG has no other choice but to import alternatives like AgustaWestland Aerospace’s AW-139.
Despite the MoD and Union Ministry of Finance (MoF) curtailing the ICG’s projected requirements, actual capital expenditure as a percentage of capital outlay ranged between 82% in the 9th Plan and 53% in the 10th Plan. This was due to delays in finalisation of procurement process and delayed signing of contracts; abnormally slow progress on the part of MoD-owned shipyards to construct the ships; and neutralisation of requirement of spares through revenue budget, cancellation of project, expiry of validity of approvals of the procurement process, delayed supply of spares, inconclusive trials, etc. In addition, procedural delays at all levels, i.e. ICG HQ, MoD and Union MoF, were responsible for non-utilisation of the budget. For instance, the delayed conclusion of contact for Interceptor Boats worth Rs213 crore in March 2006, wherein the proposal was mooted as early as December 2001 for procurement. In addition, there was non-sanction of new schemes by the MoD. Thus, the procurement of four new Do-228s, five FLIR turrets for installation on board existing Do-228s as well as integration of ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2022(V)2 radars could not take place in the year 2007-2008 and consequently, Rs70.47 crore had to be surrendered on this account. Lastly, due to the slow progress of construction of ships by the MoD-owned shipyards, Rs120 crore was surrendered in 2008-2009.
By the end of the 10th Plan period (2002-2007), even though the ICG had activated 23 coast guard stations, a large number of these stations continued to function with infrastructural/fleet deficiencies. These deficiencies were yet to be made good as of December 2010 at most of the stations. Post 26/11, the Govt of India had sanctioned 14 new stations in a span of 18 months (between June 2009 and November 2010). However, only five had been activated till December 2010.
The Group of Ministers (GoM) on National Security System had recommended as far back in February 2001 the setting up a coastal surveillance system (CSS) in the form of shore-based radar stations (also equipped with optronic sensors) in areas of high sensitivity and high traffic density to provide continuous, gap free, automatic detection and tracking of maritime targets, thereby providing a reliable tactical situation display. Although the MoD had constituted a Working Group in 2002 for implementing the CSS scheme, it took till 2004 to decide which agency would execute the project. In January 2005, the project was entrusted to the ICG, which immediately initiated a Statement of Case (SoC) for the scheme. Nonetheless, there were further delays and it took four years (2004-2008) to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in December 2008 with the Director General Light Houses and Light Ships (DGLL), the Ministry of Shipping, and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in view of the inter-ministerial issues and financial implications. Apart from this, numerous revisions (six till July 2007) in the SoC at the instance of the MoD contributed to the delay. Finally, in February 2009 the Cabinet Committee on National Security approved the CSS and automatic identification system (AIS) chain together with related communications equipment along India’s coastline under Phase-I for 46 dual S-/X-band radars and optronic sensors at an approximate cost of Rs350 crore. The non-competitive and sole-source RFP for the establishment of a chain of static optronic sensors at 46 sites was, in August 2009, awarded rather arbitrarily to the MoD-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and mysteriously failed to invite the country’s private-sector entities for submitting their bids. The field evaluation trials of BEL-built sub-systems of foreign origin began in December 2009 but were suspended in February 2010 due to unsatisfactory performance of the thermal imager, low-light-level TV (LLLTV) and charge-coupled device (CCD) camera. Subsequently, field trials of the optronic sensors of four foreign vendors were carried out in June and August 2010 at Chennai. The thermal imager of Israel’s Controp and the CCD camera with LLLTV from Canada’s Obzerv met the RFP criteria and passed the field-trials. Following this, the staff evaluation was undertaken by ICG HQ. The staff evaluation report was approved by the MoD in December 2010. The case is presently at the contract negotiations committee (CNC) stage. Thus, even after a decade, static sensors have yet to be installed, leading to gaps in detection and tracking of maritime targets, with its consequential security implications.—Prasun K. Sengupta