The Air Wing of the Indian Navy has successfully deployed the Dornier aircraft for maritime reconnaissance. The handing over of Dornier aircraft to the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) marks a quantum leap for the SLAF in terms of enhanced maritime patrolling of Sri Lanka’s EEZ- Exclusive Economic Zone. The SLAF has systematically used the Beechcraft and Y-12, for this purpose and the new Indian Dornier aircraft will empower the guardians of our skies who have served the nation for seven decades. The Dornier 228 is equipped with modern avionics and precision sensors that tremendously increase the area covered from one airborne platform.

In the global scenario maritime reconnaissance from the sky enables Air Force personnel to monitor illegal activities such as smuggling of contraband items including narcotics, human smuggling and curtail activities of transnational crime.

With its high airborne endurance of 10 hours, the Dornier is the perfect flying platform that serves as a deterrent to the above-mentioned organised crimes. It has a cruising speed of 413 Kmph and a service ceiling of 25,000 feet. The HAL-DO-228 aircraft has been designed and time tested to operate in all weather conditions (day and night), in tropical (high temperature and high humidity) and other adverse environmental conditions such as low level flight in marine condition.

The Indian Naval Air Arm is the aviation branch and a fighting arm of the Indian Navy which is tasked to provide an aircraft carrier based strike capability, fleet air defence, maritime reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare. Volunteers were asked for the fledgling aviation wing and in 1948, out of the officers who had volunteered, thirteen were selected and deputed to the Indian Air Force’s flying training academy at Jodhpur for a four-week flying course on Tiger Moths. The first naval air station, INS Garuda, was inaugurated in Cochin on May 11, 1953. The Indian Naval Air Squadron 314 (INAS 314) is a naval squadron of the Indian Navy based at Porbandar. It operates the Dornier 228 manufactured by HAL. This squadron is established to be the first responder in a crucial area of the North Arabian Sea. This is the sixth squadron of Dornier 228. The squadron is the first to operate four aircraft of newly ordered Dornier aircraft.

The squadron has been primarily tasked with maritime surveillance, search and rescue operations and to provide targeting data for weapon platforms. Women pilots of the Indian Navy also fly the Dornier plane.

In 2009, RUAG started building a Dornier 228 in Germany. The fuselage, wings and tail unit are manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), India, and transported to Germany, where RUAG Aviation carries out aircraft final assembly. The Dornier 228 NG uses the same airframe with improved technologies and performances, such as a new five-blade propeller, glass cockpit and longer range. The Dornier 228 aircraft is a twin-engine general purpose aircraft, capable of transporting up to 19 passengers or various cargoes. It is powered by a pair of Garrett TPE331 turboprop engines. The Dornier 228 is commonly classified as a Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL)-capable aircraft, being able to fly from rough runways and in hot climates. This capability has been largely attributed to the type’s supercritical wing which generates large amounts of lift at slow speeds. The Dornier 228 is typically promoted for its versatility, low operational costs, and a high level of dependability.

The rectangular shape of the Dornier 228’s fuselage section and large side-loading doors make it particularly suitable for utility operators. According to Flight International, one of the more distinguishing features of the Dornier 228 is the supercritical wing used. The structure of the wing is atypical, consisting of a box formed from four integrally-milled alloy panels. Kevlar is used for the ribs, stringers, trailing edge and fowler flaps, and the wing’s leading edge is conventional alloy sheet metal. Pilots will agree that the benefits of this wing over conventional methodology include a 15% reduction in weight, the elimination of 12,000 rivets, and lowering the per-aircraft manufacturing workload by roughly 340 man hours. The aircraft is powered by two Garrett TPE-331-5-252D engines each driving four bladed Hartzell HC-B4TN-5ML/LT 10574 constant speed, fully feathering, reversible pitch propellers.

The Dornier 228 has been promoted in various capacities, including as a commuter aircraft, a military transporter, cargo hauler, or as a special missions aircraft. Special missions include maritime surveillance, border patrol, search and rescue, Para and environmental research missions. Special equipment available to be installed include a 360-degree surveillance radar, side-looking airborne radar, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor, search light, operator station, real-time data-link, enlarged fuel tanks, satellite uplink, stretches, air-openable roller door, and infrared/ultraviolet sensors. This advanced technology will increase the observation and data collection capability of this robust aircraft. The Dornier 228 is the only aircraft of its class to be fitted with air conditioning as standard.

The navigation system includes VHF omni-directional range (VOR), distance measuring equipment (DME), automatic direction finder (ADF), radar altimeter, Global Positioning System (GPS), air data computer, and a flight management system. A three-axis autopilot can be optionally incorporated, alongside a weather radar and high frequency (HF) radio. Very high frequency Omni-directional range (VOR) is a type of short-range radio navigation system for aircraft, enabling aircraft with a receiving unit to determine its position and stay on course by receiving radio signals transmitted by a network of fixed ground radio beacons. DME-4000 (distance measuring equipment) belongs to Collins’ latest Proline-21 series of equipment. The DME-4000 is used with a frequency control unit, antenna and the aircraft audio system to provide line-of- sight distance between the aircraft and a selected ground/DME/TACAN station. The TCAS-II (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) is an on board collision avoidance and traffic situation display system with computer processing to identify and display intruding and threatening collision aircraft and issue resolution advisories in form of vertical manoeuvres guidance on pilot and co-pilot’s displays.

While designed for two-pilot operation, the Dornier 228 can be flown by only one pilot. Characteristics like low fuel consumption, short take off and landing capabilities, operation from semi prepared runways, comfortable air-conditioned cabin and long range make this aircraft ideally suited for maritime reconnaissance. The aircraft has dual controls and is normally flown by two pilots. Access to the cockpit is either through the cabin or through a separate cockpit door. Excellent visibility is provided for both the pilots. The wind shield provided is capable of absorbing impact energies and incorporates heating arrangements for de-icing. The robust Dornier plane was used by the Indian Navy Air Wing to assist in fire fighting operations during the blaze of the MV New Diamond ship, in Sri Lanka. India and Sri Lanka have enjoyed decades of defence cooperation.

The arrival of the Dornier aircraft will certainly augment the SLAF fleet and enhance national security for Sri Lanka.