With an eye on China, the Indian Navy, on Thursday 24th January, commissioned a new airbase in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Aimed at expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the base – INS KOHASSA, was inaugurated by Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba in presence of top Navy commanders. “The close proximity of Coco Islands (Myanmar) and wide expanse of Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) makes the base a very vital asset,” Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Shortly after it completed the largest maritime exercise covering all the coastal state of the country, the Navy’s commissioning of a new airbase in the strategically important Andaman and Nicobar island can be viewed on the backdrop of an increasing Chinese footprint in the IOR. Besides, the Navy’s “new mission-based deployment” plan involves the deployment of mission-ready platforms along the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC). Speaking on the occasion, Lanba said that the airbase will enhance the operational preparedness of the Navy and compliment the Navy’s role as a net security provider in the IOR.
Named after a white-bellied sea eagle, a large bird of prey, endemic to Andaman and Nicobar islands, the station currently operates short-range maritime reconnaissance (SRMR) aircraft and helicopters, which undertake the surveillance of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Search and Rescue operations (SAR) and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. In fact, the search operations for Malaysian flight MH-370 was conducted from the same base.
Post commissioning, the station will function as a base for joint operation of both military and civil aircraft in keeping with the UDAN scheme of the government. At present, the airbase will be able to handle Helicopter and Dornier Aircraft. With commissioning the base will become self-contained with fuel storage, repair facility, manpower under a commanding officer.
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