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SOURCE: DINESH BEHARA P / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

India has an approximate 7517 km length of coastline [1], considering its strategic geographical location from the perspective of its proximity to international waters, global trade routes and the increased geo-political activities in the Indo-pacific. India has a greater role to act in the region, hence it becomes important for India to be very vigilant beyond its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).Keeping in mind about the increased Geo-political activities, let us now analyze the situation that whether India need an amphibious aircraft?

Indian ocean is an important link in the global trade with 80% of China’s energy needs passing through the Malacca strait [2]. Also, Beijing’s exports passing through the same strait. Malacca strait is the main shipping channel between Indian ocean and Pacific Ocean. Hence this strait becomes a choke point [2]. China is heavily dependent on shipping lanes both for its energy and economic activities. Till the Beijing proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) becomes its preferred trade circuit, for example China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which Beijing primarily intends to bypass the Malacca strait. With rapid expansion and modernization of People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Beijing is becoming increasingly assertive and its venture has increased in Indian ocean, such as conducting surveillance and navigation, frequent submarine deployments [3] across its string of pearls bases spread in the region encircling India [4], but may be these activities by large are to gather intelligence.

Coming to the violent stand off during the month of June,2020 between Indian army and People Liberation Army (PLA) at Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Himalayan border of Ladakh region.  Also, to note the China Pakistan alliance, certainly all is not well between New Delhi and Beijing. Therefore, New Delhi won’t be pleased see Beijing’s venture in Indian ocean.

But for us the question still remains same, Does India need an amphibious aircraft?

Amphibious aircrafts are heavier, complex and expensive to operate but are also more versatile. These aircrafts have retractable wheels which allows them to operate from both land and water.Amphibious aircrafts are much faster and have longer range than comparable helicopters, and can achieve nearly the range of land-based aircraft.[5]

Considering the advantages of having amphibious aircraft, China has developed and unveiled its AVIC AG600, which is considered as one of the largest amphibian aircraft [6], with this Beijing can access to the farthest atolls in the south china sea, where it has overlapping territorial claims with several nations [6]. The AVIC AG600 can also complement the Harbin SH-5 aircrafts already in service with PLAN.So, it becomes important for India as well to operate these type of Aircraft.

These aircraft necessarily don’t need runways, a quick access ramp to water is enough to get airborne. Amphibious aircrafts can greatly enhance the surveillance, maritime patrol and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. Apart from mainland, India can also deploy them to strategically located Andaman and Nicobar Islands, from where the Strait of Malacca is as close 1100 km approx. [7] Given the aircrafts ability to land on water, Marine Commandos (MARCOs) can be quickly deployed for special operations or amphibious assault missions.

There are many amphibious aircrafts, considering from suitability and production status, I think Russian Beriev Be-200 and Japanese ShinMaywa US-2 are two front runners for New Delhi’s requirements, also given India’s relations with both Russia and Japan, these two are the best viable options.

If not for Military these aircrafts can be used for civilian purposes, such as firefighting or transportation, these aircrafts can play an important role during relief operation aftermath cyclones, which have become a frequent visitor along both eastern and western coast of Indian peninsula.

Yes, India needs an Amphibious aircraft, which will surely increase New Delhi’s maritime operational capabilities in the Indian Ocean.

Since early 2010s, Indian navy has expressed interest in acquiring ShinMaywa US-2 aircraft from Japan. Negotiations are on between Indian and Japanese authorities. If finalized it would mark Japan’s sale of any military equipment since world war II. [8]

Reference

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastal_India
[2] https://merics.org/en/analysis/chinas-expansion-indian-ocean-calls-european-engagement
[3] https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/indian-navys-challenges-countering-chinese-naval-activities-in-the-indian-ocean-region/1983186/#:~:text=China’s%20IOR%20Presence,Aden%20to%20the%20Red%20Sea.
[4] https://theprint.in/opinion/india-has-a-bigger-worry-than-lac-china-now-expanding-military-footprint-in-indian-ocean/439934/
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphibious_aircraft
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVIC_AG600
[7] https://www.google.com/maps/@8.1291168,91.6348885,6z
[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ShinMaywa_US-2

 

Image Reference

Image-1 https://transportgeography.org/?page_id=2067
Image-2 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/Subi_Reef_May_2015.jpg
Image-3 https://www.google.com/maps/@8.1291168,91.6348885,6z (measurement)
Image-4 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/Beriev_Be-200ChS_AN1924836.jpg
Image-5 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Us-2_02l.jpg

 

 

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