India to set up apex body for maritime challenges


India is about to set up an apex federal body to handle all maritime affairs. The body will deal with the issues ranging from coastline to high seas and ensure effective coordination and cohesive policy making among multiple authorities responsible for maritime security. The organizational structure of a National Maritime Commission (NMC) is in the final stages now and requires only final nod by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The body likely to be headed by a “national maritime security coordinator” will bring in synergy among different stakeholders like central ministries and departments (home, shipping, fisheries, etc.), state governments, Navy, Coast Guard, customs, intelligence agencies and port authorities. The jurisdictions of these bodies often overlap that stalls or delays the decision making. Prior to this, after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008, a maritime security board (MSAB) figured on the government’s agenda. In 2009 the national committee on strengthening maritime and coastal security against threats from the sea (NCSMCS) was set up with the cabinet secretary as its chairman. But it meets only occasionally to coordinate among the maritime stakeholders and review the progress of coastal and maritime security measures. The 2001 report by Group of Ministers to reform the national security system after the 1999 Kargil conflict also highlighted the need for setting up an apex body for management of maritime affairs. India has a vast coastline of 7516 km including island territories and a two million sq km Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Information Fusion Centre- Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) set up in 2018 at Gurugram takes feeds and inputs from multiple sources ranging from coastal radars to satellites. This entire information is then fused, correlated and analysed to assess threats in the maritime domain. It assessed 198 incidents last year related to maritime challenges.




IL-76 modernization and replacement on the cards


The Indian Air Force is deliberating on a 4000 crore proposal to upgrade 17 IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft. The fleet strength has been crippled due to the pending major overhauls and modernization. The Soviet-era jumbo transporters are suffering from low availability and older avionics. The serviceability of the aircraft has reduced to just 38% and its oldest aircraft is 38 years old while the youngest is 32 years old. Most of the aircraft remain grounded due to poor availability of spares. IAF has already deliberated upon the proposal of replacing the older IL-76 aircraft powered by older D-30KP turbofan engine with the modern PS-90A-76 turbofan bypass engines with modern avionics that follow current avionics standards. The work of IL-76 has been mostly taken over by the American Jumbo Transporters C-17 that has serviceability of around 100%. It airlifts men and material carrying them to forward areas.

5G to be soon leveraged by Indian Defence Forces


The three forces, Indian army, air force and navy are eager to leverage the power of 5G networks for defending the country. 5G becomes all the more important with the entry of artificial intelligence (AI) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the army. The establishment is keen to migrate to 5G and bring in next-generation connectivity technology into the concerned ecosystem. Countries such as China and the US have already shifted to the 5G network. In order to provide confidentiality on communications a whole new set of spectrum with new frequencies in highly efficient bands is required for defence applications. Moreover it should be different from the one to be provided to the general public. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) intends to provide frequencies in the range of 3300-3600 MHz for rolling out 5G services. A National Cybersecurity Coordinator (NCSC) has been appointed by the government to oversee all the equipment and gear that will be purchased by the telcos as it needs to be sourced from trusted sources. India has not yet launched a single commercial 5G network and spectrum auctions are also far away.




Critical Trials ahead for ALH


Indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) are heading for critical trials to demonstrate their suitability for Indian Navy. Chopper’s folding tail boom will be subjected to crucial trials to ensure that they easily fit into hangars and heli-decks of frontline warships. The development tests of the first ALH will be held soon after its tail section was modified as per Navy’s specifications. State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has manufactured the ALH and will hold trials soon. To meet the immediate requirements the Navy is about to take on lease more than 20 utility helicopters. The ALH, already in service with the three wings of the armed forces was being considered for the navy for ship-borne operations but was held back due to absence of folding tail and fully retractable rotor blades crucial for such operations. The works to modify these requirements are going on and will soon be demonstrated. The modified version of the ALH can be accommodated on a warship, it can also be fitted with any kind of sensors or weapons required by the user. An ALH with a nose mounted surveillance radar has been provided to the coast guard. The navy faces acute shortage of utility helicopters for ship-borne operations. Its legacy Chetak fleet is already way past its prime and faces various maintenance issues.




Coast Guard apprehend Pakistani boat near Gujarat


A Pakistani fishing boat, named PFB NUH, has been apprehended in a joint operation conducted by Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS). 30 kg heroine was found in the boat which had 8 Pakistani citizens. The boat was sailing near the Jakhau Coast of Kutch district.

The region falls in the Indian waters and lies close to the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). In last few months, the ICG has been successful in busting the racket of illegal drug supply in the region.