India coast guard inducts advanced light helicopters to boost land-sea connectivity

Photo: India’s defence secretary Dr Ajay Kumar inducting ALH MkIII into the Indian Coast Guard along with ICG Director General K. Natarajan from New Delhi during an online event involving HAL in Bengaluru.

New Delhi: Providing a boost to indigenous manufacturing in the aerospace and defence sector, India’s coast guard today inducted the domestic industry-made Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), enhancing its air operations capabilities.

The ALH inducted into the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), the fourth of the Indian armed forces, by Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar is the MkIII variant, which is indigenously designed and manufactured by Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Dr Ajay Kumar, in his address, said flying these advanced helicopters across the spectrum of coast guard operations would be important in achieving the stated goals of the maritime force. The online ceremony was conducted at both Bengaluru and New Delhi through digital platforms, keeping COVID-19 protocols in mind and to promote ‘Digital India’ vision of the Indian government.

The ALH MkIII maritime variant has been designed and developed with in-house customisation of 19 additional equipment by HAL to meet ICG requirements. The HAL will supply 16 ALH Mk-III to the ICG by the middle of next year. On induction, the 16 ALH MkIII will be positioned at four coast guard squadrons at Bhubaneshwar, Porbandar, Kochi and Chennai.

These helicopters are capable of undertaking embarked operations from ships, which will enhance coast guard capabilities towards sea-air co-ordinated search, interdiction capabilities, coastal security, search and rescue operations, medical evacuation, humanitarian missions, and pollution response missions.

While recalling ICG operations during the recently conducted successful operations of drugs and arms seizure and saving lives during cyclones Tauktae and YAAS, Defence Secretary said the capacity and capability augmentation of the service needs to be materialised in a time-bound manner, considering the onerous responsibilities bestowed on ICG by the government.

The shared maritime boundaries with littoral states are highly susceptible to illegal activities and the regions are prone to frequent cyclones. These squadrons with embarked operations will ensure seamless surveillance and provide assistance to fishermen in distress at sea.

Indian Coast Guard Director General K. Natarajan, in the presence of HAL Chairman and Managing Director R. Madhavan, said the induction of ALH MkIII will usher a new paradigm shift in ICG’s capability to undertake ship-borne operations and enhance surveillance prowess with extended reach.

He also brought out that these helicopters will be deployed in a coordinated matrix along with ships and aircraft to strengthen the service capabilities in area of responsibility and beyond.

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