by Vijay Grover
The Indian Coast Guard, which has played a vital role in securing the coastline of India, empowered its air surveillance unit as it inducted 3 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) Mk-III in Indian Coast Guard (ICG).
The state-of-the-art helicopters are indigenously designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bengaluru and 3 of the 16 being made for the Indian Coast Guard were handed over in a Virtual ceremony.
Dr Ajay Kumar , Defence Secretary said, “ The perseverance of the Indian Coast Guard and HAL by inducting these helicopters in testing times and progressing our Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Make in India’. We acknowledge the importance of having these advanced helicopters for ICG to operate them across the spectrum of Coast Guard operations”.
The ALH Mk-III marine version has been designed and developed with in-house customization of 19 additional equipment by HAL to meet Coast Guard requirements. The HAL will supply 16 ALH Mk-III to the Coast Guard by mid next year. The helicopters can undertake embarked operations from ships which will enhance Coast Guard capabilities towards sea-air coordinated search, interdiction capabilities, coastal security, search and rescue operations, medical evacuation, humanitarian missions, pollution response missions, etc.
Director General Coast Guard Shri K Natarajan while acknowledging the efforts of coast guard personnel for recent concurrent successful operations said “ We are prepared as ever to discharge our duties and induction of ALH Mk-III will usher a new paradigm shift in our capability to undertake ship borne operations and enhance surveillance prowess with extended reach” . The helicopters will be deployed in a coordinated matrix along with ships and aircraft to strengthen the service capabilities in Area of Responsibility and beyond.
Chairman and Managing Director of HAL Shri R Madhavan and other senior officials of Ministry of Defence were among those who attended the handover event.
The customized Mk-III under delivery features a full glass cockpit with HAL’s Integrated Architecture Display System (IADS), more powerful “Shakti” (Safran Ardiden 1H1) engines, and a host of new systems integrated by HAL’s Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre (RWRDC).
After the lockdown restrictions were gradually lifted by Indian government in May 2020, sensor integration and sea trials resumed at Kochi, Chennai, and Goa on the first of ICG and IN airframes. These helicopters yet to be christened with a unique Indian name come with latest-generation avionics. The helicopters will be for use in a shore-based role. On induction, the 16 ALH Mk-III will be positioned at four Coast Guard squadrons at Bhubaneshwar, Porbandar, Kochi and Chennai. 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 aid fishermen in distress at sea.
The selection of systems and customization was done by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in consultation with the Coast Guard. For its coastal security role, the aircraft has a nose-mounted surveillance radar with 270-degree coverage that can detect, classify, and track multiple marine targets and also it has a synthetic-aperture radar, inverse synthetic-aperture radar, and moving target indication. The helicopters are also a multi-spectral electro-optic (EO) pod for reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and range finding with stowable control grip on the copilot side.
Another big feature includes a removable medical intensive care unit for the air ambulance role. The provision of high-intensity searchlight, loudhailer, 12.7-mm cabin-mounted machine gun, a traffic alert and collision avoidance system, V/UHF communication system with data modem gives it a technical edge. A 360-degree search-and-rescue homer and an electrical rescue winch with rescue basket for double-lift (250 kilograms/550 pounds), and a control grip (winchman mini-stick) in the cabin for air-sea rescue which are a primary necessity for the Coast Guard.
However, HAL is confident that the rotors will be ready to embark ships should the need arise to base them on Coast Guard ships. The earliest trials of the Advanced Light Helicopter date back to 2002 and after which the Mark I was inducted.