February 14, 2019:
The Indian Navy has begun receiving the twelve Do 228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft ordered in 2016. These new ones cost $30 million each and include surface search radar (out to nearly 200 kilometers) and electro-optical day/night sensors with a range of 40 kilometers, ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) sensors and digital communications. Each of these Do 228 maritime recon aircraft have a crew of six and usually stay aloft about eight hours per sortie and move at a speed of about 400 kilometers an hour.
The Do (Dornier) 228 is a German passenger aircraft that India builds under license. It is a 6.2 ton, twin turboprop aircraft that the Indian Coast Guard has long used for maritime reconnaissance equipped with at least a surface search radar. Before this new order, India had 24 of these naval recon models in service and it is popular with police and border patrol organizations as well. The new navy Do 228 are also equipped to communicate with nearby navy ships and UAVs to coordinate operations. The twelve Do 228s are an addition to the current forces of manned and UAV aircraft patrolling the sea areas off southeast India.
India already has a UAV base in the Andaman Islands, so as to patrol the eastern sea approaches to the Indian Ocean. The Heron 1 and II UAVs already there (and at bases on the Indian mainland) are mainly looking for smugglers and terrorists but are also equipped to spot and identify warships and surfaced submarines. The Andamans are a string of nearly 600 islands (most uninhabited), that are closer to Thailand than they are to India (which owns them). The islands extend 500 kilometers south nearly to Indonesia and thus cover traffic coming through the Malacca Strait, which is the primary passage for shipping headed for the South China Sea and West Asian ports. China warships regularly pass through this area on their way to join the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia or to visit African, Middle Eastern and European nations that trade heavily with China. India feels more secure if it is able to track Chinese warship traffic via the Malacca Straight. The new Do 228s are uniquely equipped to do that.