The Indian Navy will commission its sixth squadron of Dornier aircraft at Porbandar in Gujarat on November 29. The state-of-the-art multi-role Short Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft will keep an eye in the north Arabian Sea where India shares its maritime border with Pakistan.
“The squadron, nicknamed “Raptors” with four newly inducted CS Dorniers, will be commissioned at an event in Porbandar where Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral MS Pawar, will be present,” said Wing Commander Puneet Chadha, spokesperson, Ministry of Defence, Gujarat.
The new INAS 314 squadron will be commanded by Captain Sandeep Rai who was commissioned into the Indian Navy on January 1, 1999. Captain Rai has over 3,000 hours of flying experience and has been part of a crew, which set up the Seychelles Dornier Flight for combating piracy off Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, stated the information shared by the spokesperson with The Indian Express.
The squadron, based in Porbandar, will operate the upgraded Dornier 228 aircaft, which was indegeniously manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under licence from RUAG Aerospace. These upgraded aircraft are equipped with glass cockpit, advanced surveillance radar, ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) sensors and networking features used for electronic warfare mission, maritime surveillance, search and rescue and providing targeting data to weapon platforms, it stated.
The squadron will also provide round-the-clock sensor-based surveillance that will help ward off terror and other sea-borne threats in a region where China has a significant stake in Pakistan’s Gwadar port, located about 500 nautical miles away from Porbandar.
The Indian Navy has about 23 Air Squadrons made up of Dorniers, UAVs, IL-38, Mig-29K, P-81, Chetak, Advanced Light Helicopters, Seaking 42B, Kamov 28 and Hawk Mk 132. However, there are only five Dornier aircraft squadrons currently being operated by the Indian Navy. The latest Dornier aircraft squadron to be commissioned into the Indian Navy on July 22, 2019 was INAS 313 named “Sea Eagle” at Meenambakam in Tamil Nadu. The others Dornier squadrons are based in Goa, Vishakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair.
Porbandar has become an important hub for the Navy after it commissioned a forward operating base INS Sardar Patel in 2018. Apart from Dorniers, the Navy’s Air Squadron at Porbandar also houses an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) squadron — The Frontier Formidables. According to defence sources, the new Dornier squadron in Gujarat will help add to the survelliance provided by the Israeli-origin UAVs that have shorter flying range compared to the Dornier aircraft, which can remain airborne for about 10 hours and has a range of over 1,000 nautical miles.