Soon, sky marshals will be present on-board flights between India and Germany, with the two countries set to sign a formal agreement during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit next week.
A sky marshal, also known as an air marshal or a flight marshal, is an undercover agent on a commercial aircraft to counter a hijacking. “They are deployed on a random basis on domestic flights as well as those to neighbouring and Gulf countries,” said an aviation ministry official.
For a sky marshal to be on-board a flight, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) needs to be signed between two countries as was done by India and the US.
Among Indian carriers, Air India operates daily flights to Germany while German carrier Lufthansa operates multiple flights to different Indian cities.
“The MoU is likely to be signed on October 5,” said a source. There have been regular intelligence inputs warning of possible attempts to hijack an aircraft since an Indian Airlines flight (IC-814) was hijacked by members of Pakistan-based terror groups in 1999.
“Such requests are mostly based on intelligence alerts of the respective countries and point to apprehensions that western countries might have regarding aviation security in the country. Checking for international flights is, however, quite thorough in India,” said aviation expert Subhash Goyal.
Sky marshals are drawn from the elite National Security Guard, which is modelled on the pattern of the SAS of the UK and GSG-9 of Germany, and is a force specially equipped and trained to deal with anti-hijack duties.