Coastal patrolling along the Kerala and Lakshadweep coasts will get a fillip when the Navy inducts in a month or two the first batch of four fast interceptor crafts (FIC) manufactured by the Sri Lankan firm Solas Marine.
The delivery of the initial batch of FICs was to have taken place in December and the following in April this year, but delay at the manufacturer’s end has now pushed the delivery schedule by a few months.
Southern Naval Command is slated to get 16 FICs in four batches from the 80 made by Solas Marine, with the last slated for induction in April, 2015.
To be operated by the specialised Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB), raised in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and trained at INS Dronacharya in Fort Kochi, the state-of-the-art boats will be waterjet-propelled, with a top speed of 45 knots. Flying the blue ensign, as is customary of auxiliary naval vessels, the boats will sport guns, night vision devices, communication equipment, AIS (automatic identification system) and radar besides an acoustic device, ‘LRAD’ (long range acoustic device) and a sonic weapon used for scaring pirates away.
Navy sources said each FIC would be manned by a crew of four sailors and the first four boats would be stationed at Ezhimala, Kochi and Lakshadweep. Apart from doing seafront patrolling on the high-speed vessels with Marine Police, SPB personnel would also utilise the boats for force protection (guarding naval assets and strategic installations from seaborne threats) and harbour defence (primarily, protection of vessels inside the harbour area), they said.
The first batch of FICs is currently undergoing trials in Sri Lanka. The Navy plans to induct 95 FICs in all over the next couple of years. Fifteen of these, manufactured by a French firm, have already been inducted under the Western Naval Command in Mumbai.
The interceptor crafts, coupled with the newly-inducted coastal radar chain, would act as force multipliers in securing the coastal waters of the State and the Lakshadweep group of islands against piracy, armed robbery and other threats, say Navy officials.
Meanwhile, training of Navy personnel detailed to Sagar Prahari Bal, which would eventually have 1,000 combatants, is in full swing at the Navy’s missile and gunnery school INS Dronacharya. To meet the requirements, the school has put in place specialised simulated training facilities, especially for visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations aboard container-laden cargo vessels. (Courtesy: The Hindu)