05 July 2011
HIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Piracy activities in the Indian Ocean were getting closer to Indian territory, Air Marshal Sumit Mukerji, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command (SAC), said on Thursday.
Addressing a farewell press conference at the SAC, Mukerji retired on Thursday after a career spanning nearly four decades - he said that pirates were ‘reasonably close’ to the Lakshadweep Islands.
“They are still in International waters. Now, the Indian Navy is engaged in anti-piracy measures. At the moment it is felt adequate,” he said. While pirates are believed to be upgrading their weaponry and mode of transportation, pre-empting a pirate attack is still a difficult proposition, he said.
“For one, the Indian Ocean is so vast. Identifying a pirate ship is a problem. They are quite fearless and mix and merge with other ships. Only when an attack is attempted, we know,” he said.
With the Indian Ocean region gaining in strategic importance, the SAC is adding more teeth to its Air Defence capabilities. Air Marshal Mukerji said that the Command would be getting new assets to ‘reach out into the Indian Ocean.’ The Tanjore and Sulur air bases will become fully operational soon. By 2016, Tanjore will have a Sukhoi-30 fighter squadron and Sulur, a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) squadron by 2012-2013, he said.
“Tanjore is going to see a lot of activity. “The Su-30 fighters aside, it will also have an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) squadron and also a transport aircraft squadron in addition to a radar unit,” he said. The Su-30s can cover the Indian Ocean from the Malacca Straits to the Straits of Hormuz. “We are also getting a lot of radars. Our radars are also integrated with that of the Navy and the Airport Authority of India,” Mukerji said.
The IAF proposal to revive the World War II airfield at Kayathar in southern Tamil Nadu was being actively pursued by the Ministry of Defence, he said.
Somali pirates aren't content just floating around in their fishing boats, looking for victims. These days, pirates off the Horn of Africa are turning to a sophisticated mix of weaponry, jury-rigged GPS devices and ingenious hacks of shipping-industry databases to hunt down prey. The resulting technology isn't just fascinating — it also has a real impact on foreign millitaries who are fighting piracy.
In addition to random attacks on cargo and passenger ships, Somali pirates are increasingly relying on the use of GPS systems, satellite phones, and open-source intelligence such as shipping industry blogs in order to figure out the location of ships. Much of the technological infrastructure used by the pirates is allegedly located in the Somali city of Eyl, which has been described as the "piracy capital of the world."
In an interview with Abdullahi Jamaa of Egyptian Web publication OnIslam.net, Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Program detailed the methods used by the pirates:
"The most important thing for Somali pirates is getting relevant information regarding merchant vessels that they wish to hijack. But this does not come easily without the use of certain technologies […] What they must know includes information on the value of vessels, the value of the goods and the number of crew members […] They use navigational technologies in their daily operation. This involves a combination of technologies, most important[ly] they use satellite cell phones for long range communications."
Satellite phones are easily attainable in the chaos of Mogadishu; foreign importers earn a hefty premium bringing the expensive phones into the beleaguered country. However, the weapon in the Somali arsenal that's most interesting to Western observers is the use of pirate-operated radar to locate targets at sea. Pirate “motherships” with radar and advanced weapons capabilities have strayed far beyond the Horn of Africa to locales as far-flung as Madagascar, India and the Persian Gulf......