To tackle nuclear and conventional submarines from China that regularly enter India’s Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Indian naval forces have begun to deploy its new long-range maritime patrol aircraft and spy drones.
Not only spy drones, the base is also equipped with country’s most potent submarine hunters/killers, the naval Poseidon-8I aircraft to counter Chinese infiltration.
Talking about induction of these P-8I aircraft, an official at the Defence ministry told an Indian newspaper that naval Poseidon-8I aircraft are just about to complete their first-ever two-week deployment at Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.
The official added that “Navy and IAF are also deploying their (Israeli) Searcher-II unmanned aerial vehicles to the islands on a temporary basis.”
India, as of January 2009, has inducted eight P-8I aircraft across various parts of India. To get these P-8I aircraft, India paid $2.1 billion to the US aviation major Boeing .
These P-8I aircraft are especially designed to gather intelligence and has an operating range of over 1,200 nautical miles. The maximum speed of these P-8Is is 907kmph and its packed with radars that also detect threats in the IOR as “intelligent hawk-eyes”.
The P-8Is are armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles and also has MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges to neutralize any enemy submarines and warships in its path.
A source has also said that India is in final stages of acquiring four more P-8Is and the one posted in Andaman region can operate from Port Blair (naval air station INS Utkrosh) to keep close tabs on IOR entire region.
Even as India get set to acquire these much-needed operational requirement, Andaman & Nicobar Command (ANC) that is India’s first and only theatre command continues to suffer due to neglect.
Even with ANC becoming Modi government’s top priority, there is still much more that needs to be done and that too at a faster pace so as to ensure that ANC can effectively act as a pivot to counter China’s strategic moves in IOR and also ensure security of sea lanes converging towards the Malacca Strait.
The 572 – island cluster needs to develop a lot more infrastructure and maintenance so as to be able to support more airstrips and jetties.
The island cluster extends 720km and would need around 15,000 troops, a fighter squadron and some major warships in the areas to become a formidable force.
As of now there is a huge military crunch in the areas as there is not only a turf war going on among Army, Navy and IAF, but there is also a huge crunch for funding.
The areas also has a lot of environmental concerns and at present ANC just has 3,000 soldiers in infantry, 20 small warships and patrol vessels, a few Mi-8 helicopters and few Dornier-228 patrol aircraft.
The island city needs extended airfields with even its major base in Port Blair and Car Nicobar in need of some serious upgrade.