The Indian Coast Guard (ICG), which has grown three times in size in the last 15 years, is set for further expansion in line with its increasing charter of duties. The force is now looking for a replacement for its ageing Chetak helicopters and a 10-tonne multi-role helicopters as well as procurement of up to 10 rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to fly from its ships, six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), and six C-295 transport aircraft, officials said. All these will be procured indigenously through the Make-in-India route, one official stated.
“The proposal for six Offshore Patrol Vessels is set to be taken up by the Defence Acquisition Council soon. There is also a proposal for acquiring C-295 transport aircraft,” an ICG official said. The C-295 is set to assembled in India by the Tata Group in collaboration with Airbus as part a 56 aircraft contract for the Indian Air Force.
It has already received approval for 14 Fast Patrol Vessels and two Pollution Control Vessels (PCV) and are approved under execution.
“The Coast Guard has seen a major expansion in terms of numbers and capabilities. In 2009, the Coast Guard had 50 ships and 30 aircraft. As of today, it has 159 ships and 77 aircraft,” the official said. The aircraft include Chetak and ALH helicopters and Dornier surveillance aircraft.
The Indian Coast Guard was created through an Act of Parliament in 1978.
Last week, Director General, ICG, V. S. Pathania received the last of 16 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH)-MKIII from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), contracted under a deal in March 2017 for maritime role. A Letter of Intent for nine more ALH-MKIII was also issued on the occasion.
At the same time, Mr. Pathania also evaluated the indigenous Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) as a potential Chetak replacement in a maritime role. The ICG said that a committee comprising of all stakeholders, including HAL, would be set up, which will define the qualitative requirements of a maritime single engine helicopter for replacing its Chetak fleet.
“The LUH is designed to operate upto an altitude of 6 km as per the high-altitude requirements of the Army and the Indian Air Force. So the helicopter will have lot of reserve power at sea level, which is very helpful in operations,” another ICG official said. The ICG will submit its requirements to HAL shortly, the official said. HAL is already developing a modified variant of the LUH for the Navy.
The ICG also has a requirement for a 10-tonne class multi-role helicopter. However, a deal with Airbus for 14 helicopters fell through after coming close to conclusion. HAL is developing the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) in the 12-tonne class for the Armed Forces. Officials said the Coast Guard is in talks with HAL for developing a modified variant of the IMRH to meet its requirements.
Series of inductions
The ICG has seen a series of inductions of new vessels in the last few years. For instance, in February 2022, the Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) delivered the last of five 2,400-tonne Sankalp-class offshore patrol vessels (OPV) to the Coast Guard under a contract signed in November 2016. In August 2021, it completed inducting seven OPVs built by Larsen & Toubro under a contract signed in 2015.
In March, the Defence Ministry signed a ₹473 crore contract with GSL for the construction of eight Fast Patrol Vessels, which can operate in shallow waters. Similarly, in September 2020, the ICG inducted the last of five FPVs built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers in Kolkata.
In June 2021, the Defence Ministry had signed a ₹583 crore contract with GSL for construction of two PCVs and the keel for the vessels was laid on November 21, 2022. They are scheduled to be delivered by February 2025 and August 2025.
At present, the Coast Guard has three PCVs in its fleet at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Porbandar, respectively, to carry out dedicated pollution surveillance, oil spill monitoring, and response operations in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and around islands.
Pollution control has emerged as a major function for the ICG, with prevention and control of marine pollution being part of its charter, and with India becoming the first responder for maritime incidents in the Indian Ocean Region.
On November 22, Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan visited the ICG’s headquarters, during which he was briefed on its charter of duties as well as expanding responsibilities.
Further, he was briefed about the ICG’s vast area of responsibility, which extends to 200 nautical miles seaward, encompassing about two million sq. km. of EEZ with 13 coastal States and Union Territories having 1,295 islands.