The Indian navy has provided the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) with a Dornier aircraft, which will be operated by the MNDF.
In a statement, the Indian Embassy in the Maldives stated that the aircraft was part of an intergovernmental agreement. The statement also read that former administrations of the Maldives had also requested for such an aircraft for the purpose of enhancing security and joint EEZ surveillance and HADR
The requirement for such a surveillance aircraft was during a visit by former President Abdulla Yameen to India in 2016.
The aircraft will be stationed in the northern MNDF base of Hanimaadhoo and will be operated on the command and control of MNDF. The Indian government will be bearing the operating costs of the aircraft.
The aircraft is to be used for Search and Rescue operations as well as Maritime/EEZ surveillance and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief for Maldivians in the north. The aircraft will also assist in ongoing joint EEZ surveillance activities by India and the Maldives.
During the last EEZ surveillance visit, it discovered multiple large fishing trawlers illegally fishing in Maldivian waters. The aircraft will also complement medical evacuations being currently done by the MNDF helicopters. Over 250 such evacuations have already been conducted.
Maldivian pilots, observers, and technical personnel have also been undergoing training for the operation of the aircraft since June 2017. A total of seven Maldivians including pilots and air observers, engineers are being trained for the aircraft operation.
The aircraft will also be used in operations against drug trafficking and Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. The government of India has been regularly sharing information with the Maldives on the movement of drug traffickers headed for the Maldives based on reconnaissance missions for which these aircraft are regularly used for.
The statement by the Indian Embassy read that in light of the Mahibadhoo and L. Atoll attacks by suspected terrorists, the aircraft will also be useful in Counter-Terrorism operations. The Dornier aircraft will have the colors of the MNDF air wing and carry its crest.
India has previously donated two helicopters to the Maldives. Operations of the aircraft are conducted by Indian military personnel, something which has garnered stern public criticism.