BANGALORE, India, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- India has presented the Seychelles with a Dornier 228 surveillance aircraft.
The Dornier 228 is built by Indian state-owned defense and aerospace firm Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. In February 2012, HAL signed a contract to deliver two DO-228s, with a scheduled delivery date by 2014.
"The aircraft to be provided to Seychelles will be supported by HAL team for maintenance on site to enable the new user get the requisite expertise," HAL Chairman R.K. Tyagi said. "It is equipped with the latest facilities and is excellent platform of maritime applications."
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony presided over the DO-228 transfer to Seychelles Foreign Minister Jean Paul Adam, describing it as another "milestone" in the defense cooperation between the two countries.
Antony noted that the DO-228 aircraft, which flies with a crew of 19, were extensively deployed by the Indian coast guard, the Indian navy and air force as well as the civilian sector, deployed in a variety of activities, including operating as a frontline surveillance platform for maritime reconnaissance, intelligence, search and rescue missions, pollution control and transport.
HAL manufactures DO-228 aircraft under a licensing agreement with Germany's Dornier GmbH of Germany at the HAL Transport Aircraft Division in Kanpur.
HAL has manufactured 117 Dornier DO-228 aircraft but has plans to expand production in 2013 to construct 30 more planes for India's armed forces, as well has having procured 10 export contracts for South Africa, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Ecuador in 2013-14.
HAL is also considering attempting to develop a civilian export market for the DO-228.
The fuel-efficient and low-maintenance DO-228 can takeoff from short runways, stay aloft for 5.5 hours and has an operating range of more than 1,500 miles.
Seychelles officials said they will use its DO-228 to carry out surveillance and anti-piracy missions.
While pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean have dropped 27 percent since 2009, when reports of Somali pirates drew navies from throughout the world to protect trade routes, Somali pirates have ranged as far afield as the Seychelles, hundreds of miles from the Somali coast, supported by larger "mother ships."
The Seychelles have become a prime anti-piracy operating base, with more than 100 suspected Somali pirates incarcerated there. That represents about 25 percent of the nation's jail population.
Given the archipelago's burgeoning prison population, Indian Ocean Commission and former anti-piracy representative for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Seychelles Jacques Belle noted, "Most of the warship vessels operating in the Indian Ocean are from countries located far from the region. ... It is already very costly to transfer them to their own country for trial."
Not all has run smoothly in the past between the Indian Ministry of Defense and HAL. Antony used the handover occasion to note: "It is satisfying that HAL Kanpur has manufactured the Dornier aircraft three months ahead of schedule... I request you to maintain this record as regard to (our own) navy, the (Indiana air force) and our other users. If you want, you can do that, you have proved it."