With 12 more hovercraft likely to be inducted in the Coast Guard in next three years, the agency's eastern region is likely to purchase two such craft and base them off Chennai to improve security along the coastline.
The Coast Guard already has six hovercrafts and 12 more are under construction. Out of these, the Coast Guard's eastern region is planning to purchase two for Chennai, two for Rameswaram and two for Puducherry.
The cost of a hovercraft is approximately Rs8 crore. According to Coast Guard officials, the presence of hovercraft in Chennai will enhance the force's preparedness in meeting any eventuality, like the need for sudden evacuation in the shortest time.
Speaking to reporters after a demonstration on Hovercraft H-181's performance on Tuesday, Coast Guard Commandant Venu Madhav said, ''Hovercraft are best suited for law enforcement duties at sea for their ability to move at a relatively high speed over shallow water and on land during a hot pursuit, which a speedboat cannot do.''
''Of the Coast Guard's six hovercraft vessels, we have positioned two at western borders in Okha, two at Haldia, West Bengal, and another two at Mandapam,'' Madhav said. The H-181 hovercraft was brought to Chennai from Mandapam to provide additional security cover from seashore during the Independence Day celebrations.
Hovercraft have been utilised for landing troops from ship to land, to cruise over mined waters, passenger liners/freight carriers. In the military, these can be used for fast attack, assault missions, logistics support and also for mine clearances.
The craft moves on water and land as well on a cushion of air pressure. Because of its design, hovercraft can even manoeuvre over marshy land, desert and undulated surface, and can pass over an obstacle of a significant height. The hovercraft is powered by two 12 cylinder air-cooled turbo charged engines, and produces 800 horse power of thrust.
Madhav said the use of hovercraft had helped to reduce smuggling from the western borders and rescue fishermen lost at sea.
As of now, the Coast Guard western region has four hovercrafts and the eastern region has two. "The hovercrafts will help enhance close coast patrolling. Even now we do this, but with these vehicles we can patrol faster and more efficiently," said Coast Guard Inspector General (eastern region) A Rajasekhar.