Sunday, December 13, 2009

Arakonam naval air station to be vital hub for Indian Navy




Arakkonam naval air station, 70 km west of Chennai, is all set to be a hub for modern maritime reconnaissance with the Indian Navy planning  to station eight long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft Boeing P8I to be bought from the US aircraft manufacturer

"The aircraft will be capable of long-range maritime patrol, anti-submarine warfare, anti surface warfare, intelligence gathering and search and rescue missions. It will be fitted with the best available sensors in the market," said assistant chief of naval staff (Air) rear admiral S M Vadgaokar, at the passing out of helicopter pilots from Helicopter Training School at INS Rajali in Arakonam on Saturday.

India signed a $2.1 billion contract with Boeing for acquiring these aircraft in January 2009. They will replace the eight Russian Tupolev-142M turboprops. "Eight aircraft are included in the contract. But, we have an option to buy four more which may be bought from another manufacturer. Delivery of the aircraft will start by end of 2012. The last aircraft will come in 2015," Vadgaokar said.

The P-81 planes with an operating range of 600 nautical miles are expected to help plug the existing voids in Navy's maritime capabilities. The aircraft will be customised for India and will be based on the Boeing 737 -800 commercial airliner. "The first few pilots will be trained abroad with Boeing. India has expertise in piloting these planes. Many private commercial airlines have these B737-800 aircraft," he added.

Fourteen pilots from Indian Navy and two pilots from Indian Coast Guard have passed out in the 73rd Helicopter Conversion Course on Saturday.

Navy would need around 150 pilots because it was planning to replace its multi-use helicopters by inducting 100 new helicopters for ships, he said, and added that the need for more pilots could be filled in two to three years. "The navy will induct a large fleet of aircraft -- 200 helicopters, 30 medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, 30 multi-role aircraft, 14 unmanned aerial vehicles and 135 fighter aircraft -- in the coming years as part of the maritime capability perspective plan drawn up till 2022."

Vadgaokar said there was no attrition of pilots in the Indian Navy. "Many move out when they reach a seniority after which they may not be able to carry on as operational pilots." Lieutenant A Garud won the best all-round trainee pilot Governor of Kerala rolling trophy while sub lieutenant K Banerjee came first in merit in flying.

Times of India

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