The Indian government has handed over the first of two donated Dornier 228 maritime surveillance aircraft to the Seychelles for coastguard and anti-piracy operations.
India supplied the aircraft in terms of a bi-lateral defence assistance agreement signed between the two nations in February last year in which the state-owned Indian aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) agreed to provide two Do 228 aircraft and deliver both by early 2014. Speaking during the handover of the aircraft to Seychellois Foreign Minister Jean-Paul Adam at Palam Air Force base in New Delhi on Thursday, HAL chairman RK Tyagi said his company will provide the Indian Ocean nation with maintenance teams for the Do-228.
“The aircraft to be provided to Seychelles will be supported by an HAL team for maintenance on site to enable the new user get the requisite expertise. It is equipped with the latest facilities and is an excellent platform for maritime applications,” Tyagi said.
Indian defence minister A K Antony presided over the transfer and called it a milestone of defence and security co-operation between the two countries. He said the versatility of the Do 228 surveillance plane has been proven as it has been deployed extensively by the Indian Coast Guard, the Navy and the Air Force.
Speaking on behalf of the Seychelles government, Adam said his country will use the aircraft to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity against terrorism and international piracy. He noted that his country is struggling to meet the costs of detaining and trying more than 100 suspected pirates so far arrested by international naval forces in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
The second Dornier 228 is expected to arrive in the Seychelles early in 2014. It will join the Seychelles coast guard’s air arm, which includes one Dornier 228 and two Chetak maritime patrol helicopters, also donated by India. The Seychelles coast guard also operates a DHC-6 Twin Otter, two Harbin Y-12s, a Reims Cessna F 406 Caravan II, a Beech 1900D and a Cessna 150.
India has donated a fast attack vessel to the Seychelles and in February 2011 deployed a Dornier 228 to Victoria, the nation’s capital. In 2010 India promised to give the Seychelles its own Dornier patrol aircraft as well as two HAL Chetak light helicopters. The Dornier, sent to the island early in 2011 for 15 months, was intended as a stopgap until HAL hands over a new aircraft to the government.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week announced a further $5 million in economic and military assistance for the Seychelles. Last year, India donated two Do 228 maritime surveillance aircraft to Mauritius.
HAL says it is presently implementing a major expansion programme which should result in the manufacturing of 30 Dornier DO-228 aircraft for Indian armed forces in the 2013-2014 period. Another ten Do 228 aircraft will be manufactured for unnamed international customers in South Africa, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Philippines, Thailand and Ecuador in the same period.