Off the Radar

The government should speed up its project of integrating India’s coastline into one radar network

Dilip Kumar Mekala

The government should speed up its project of integrating India’s coastline into one radar networkThe horrific terror attack on Mumbai on 26 November 2008 exposed the vulnerability of the Indian continent via the sea route. Immediately after, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) planned to integrate the entire coastline into one radar network which can seamlessly monitor movements in the sea. The government entrusted Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) with the responsibility of establishing a chain of 46 static radar sensors along the coastline in Phase-I of the project. Out of these, 36 were planned to be implemented on the mainland while the remaining 10 were to be set up on the islands. As of August 2013, BEL’s project was able to activate only 34 radar stations on the mainland.

Upon completion of Phase-I, the government had planned to take up Phase-II of the project, wherein 38 additional remote radar sites would be established. Twenty-one sites of vessel traffic management system (VTMS) Gulf of Kutch and Gulf of Khambhat would also be integrated during Phase-II. Also, during this time, the Static Radar Chain was also proposed to be supplemented by eight mobile surveillance systems (MSS). Upon integration of Phase-I and Phase-II, the chain of static sensors would provide near gap free electronic surveillance of the entire Indian coastline upto 25 nautical miles from the coast.

As a part of this project, BEL has teamed up with various foreign manufacturers for components to develop the radars. The notable joint ventures in this regard are with Israeli manufacturer Rafael, French Thales Systems, Swedish manufacturer Saab and so on. Last year, BEL, which is the prime contractor in the coastal radar project, managed to inaugurate several Regional Operating Stations (ROS) and a Regional Operating Centre (ROC). A cluster of Remote Sensor Stations are linked to ROS, enabling transfer of real-time data. The ROS’ are linked to ROCs, which in turn are connected to the control centre (CC).

BEL’s project incorporated various static sensors such as radars, VHF communication systems, electro-optic sensors and meteorological sensors all of which were installed at these Remote Sensor Stations to monitor the coastline. Electro-optic sensors provide visual detection and identification of targets. VHF communication system is provided for communication with targets at sea. Information from multiple radars and other sensors like Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) are co-related to provide a composite picture at operating centres.

This chain of static sensors project is being steered by the Indian Coast Guard, and envisages fitment of high-end surveillance gadgets on lighthouses and masts at various locations on the mainland, in Lakshadweep and Minicoy and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The project aims at preventing undetected intrusion by monitoring the movement of vessels plying along the coastline. The project would also aid in enhancing the efficacy of search and rescue (SAR) operations coordinated by the Coast Guard. The data generated would also be shared with other maritime agencies via the national command communication control and intelligence (NC3I) network to generate comprehensive maritime domain awareness (MDA).

The project is the first-of-its-kind both in terms of expanse and strategic implications. Whilst the Gujarat, Maharashtra Kerala clusters of the network was inaugurated in August-September 2012, the start of the Andhra Pradesh cluster in late 2012 signified the operationalisation of the network on the east coast. The project, when implemented completely, would act as the much needed electronic eye to our maritime agencies and provide the envisaged impetus to the overall coastal security apparatus, wherein the chain of static sensors would ensure near gap free electronic surveillance of the entire Indian coastline.

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