Tuesday, 07 July 2020

Chittagong, Bangladesh: Bangladesh Navy is going to add two maritime patrol aircraft to its fleet for better securing the country's vast maritime territory, bigger than the total landmass, according to Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Zahir Uddin Ahmed when he called on President Zillur Rahman at Bangabhaban on September 25.

Dornier 228NG planes
“Bangladesh Navy will be able to play an important role in safeguarding maritime boundary and resources and preventing smuggling in sea route after inclusion of the maritime aircrafts.”

The two maritime patrol aircraft jets are expected to equip the naval force for extensive aerial surveillance of deep-sea piracy in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and illegal fishing by Indian, Thai and Burma fishermen, said navy sources.

“The navy entered into a contract with RUAG Aerospace Services of Germany on June 23 to procure the Dornier 228NG planes, which will be delivered in two years' time at a cost of Taka 2410 million.”

The jet is a modernized version of old Dornier used in Germany, Japan and Norway and is suited to detect oil slicks and carry out environmental research with sophisticated sensors.

Officials requesting anonymity said as per the deal the bodies of the aircraft would be manufactured by RUAG in Germany. However, the engines, surveillance radar and other major equipment would be produced in the USA.

According to the RUAG website, the deal includes comprehensive training of pilots and ground crew and aircraft maintenance on location. The manufacturer will also ensure supply of spare parts and maintenance for 15 years.

It takes hours for a naval ship or patrol boat to rush from one location to another in the vast coast and deep sea, allowing miscreants an easy escape.

With the introduction of the maritime patrol aircraft jet plane, it will be much easier to check arms smuggling and human trafficking along the country's 714-kilometre coastline stretching from the Hariabhanga to the Naf River.

Bangladesh has 44,000 square miles of maritime area. A navy ship takes three days and three nights to monitor such a huge area. Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) can do this task in 2 to 3 hours.

PNS FFG 251 Zulfiqar with RAN FFH-153 Stuart of Bangladesh Navy in the Bay

Besides, the aircraft will conduct expeditious search and rescue operations and ensure security of gas rigs and other installations along the coastline.

Of the country's 1.64 lakh square km total maritime area, the EEZ extends 200 nautical miles into the sea from the coastline. All the resources (fish, minerals, mines) in an EEZ belong to the country concerned.

Sources say the government could have been alarmed by recent illegal gas and oil exploration activities carried out by Indian and Burma inside Bangladesh’s sovereign maritime area. India started exploration on 18,000 sq. km territory, while Myanmar carried out survey on a 17,000 sq. km area.

The naval force meanwhile purchased two maritime helicopters from Italy in mid-June for routine surveillance, search and rescue. The choppers are attached to BNS Bangabandhu--a frigate with helipad and hanger facilities