The INAS 343 squadron
Terrorists will find it difficult to sneak across the border into Gujarat with the western naval command commissioning its first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadron here on Monday. This is the Navy’s second UAV squadron after the one set up in Kochi in 2006. The need for a UAV squadron in the strategically located Gujarat, India’s economic power house, was long felt. The commissioning of INAS 343 squadron, which has two Israeli-made Heron and two Searcher MKII UAVs, will now take the maritime reconnaissance in this region to a new level. The UAV squadron will help the Navy patrol the northern portion of Arabian Sea, sea lanes from the Gulf and provide surveillance cover to high-value assets on India’s western coast. The Searcher is a third-generation UAV. Heron is the bigger version of Searcher MKII and has a wingspan of about 16 metres. The Searcher carries a modern and sophisticated electro optic camera and a communication intelligence payload. Heron is equipped with a maritime patrol radar. Both the UAVs have long endurance capabilities, can operate before and after sunset and beam real time live pictures of maritime targets and thus strengthen the joint war prowess of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. Commissioning the squadron, Governor Dr Kamla said UAVs will help secure the country’s maritime boundaries and shipping lanes. She said Gujarat had many highvalue and critical national assets and therefore, it had become essential that appropriate steps were taken for their protection.