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Navy's first UAV squadron in place

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Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash (centre), Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Command Vice-Admiral S.C.S. Bangara (right) in front of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle at the Southern Naval Command, Kochi, on Friday. Photo: Vipin Chandra
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash (centre), Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Command Vice-Admiral S.C.S. Bangara (right) in front of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle at the Southern Naval Command, Kochi, on Friday. Photo: Vipin Chandra

John L. Paul

We are now among the pioneers in UAV operations at sea: Admiral Arun Prakash

UAVs play a large role in maritime reconnaissance that is of paramount importance, it is pointed outThe UAVs can be operated from any location and controlled from specially equipped ships

KOCHI: The Indian Navy is among the first few in the world to induct Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which enhance the force's surveillance capability, the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Arun Prakash has said.

He was speaking after commissioning the first UAV Squadron (Indian Naval Air Squadron 342 comprising 12 Israeli-built Herons and Searcher Mark IIs) at the Southern Naval Command here on Friday.

"To maintain order at sea, it is imperative that we have a clear and continuous picture of what is happening in the waters around us. Maritime reconnaissance is thus of paramount importance to the Navy, as much in peacetime, as during hostilities. It is here that UAVs play a major role. The UAVs' small but potent sensor captures clear images of men and objects." The ability to operate these flying machines from remote locations, without a pilot, goes a long way in enhancing the surveillance capability of the Navy. The Squadron carries the sobriquet `Flying Sentinels' and is commanded by Cdr. R Kawatra.

The UAVs were inducted into the Navy at Kochi in early 2003 for the Intensive Flying and Trials Unit.

Admiral Prakash said the Indian Navy was one of the first to operate the UAVs out in the sea in a tropical environment where there is heavy rainfall. "After three years of intensive flying trials, we are now among the pioneers in the esoteric art of UAV operations at sea. INAS 342 is going to be an asset, which will enhance our maritime domain awareness manifold. The UAVs can be operated from any shore location and can be controlled from specially equipped ships. They can carry out reconnaissance hundreds of miles out at sea. This is yet another landmark in the growing friendship and cooperation between India and Israel," he said.

He said 53 years ago the first aviation unit of the Indian Navy was commissioned at the air station in Kochi. It is now called INS Garuda. "Since then, the Navy's aviation arm has made tremendous strides and honed its skills in, among other things, ship-borne anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning. Naval aviation has kept pace in every way with the growth in stature and capability of the Navy to fulfil its role of safeguarding the country's maritime interests. The seas around the Indian peninsula have intense shipping activity. It is therefore essential that peace and tranquillity prevail on the sea lanes," said Admiral Prakash.

He inspected a ceremonial guard of honour. His wife, Kumkum Prakash, president of the Navy Wives Welfare Association, unveiled the commissioning plaque and formally named the UAV unit INAS 342.


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