Indian air station to monitor key maritime passage

Indian air station to monitor key maritime passage

INS Baaz will oversee route crucial for Chinese cargo movement

Indian air station to monitor key maritime passage

India on Tuesday opened its eastern-most air station in the Campbell Bay in the Andaman and Nicober Islands to keep an eye on a strategic maritime passage through which bulk of Chinese oil and cargo moves.

Aptly named INS Baaz (hawk) because of its ability to provide a hawk-eye view over vast stretches of Indian Ocean, including important maritime channels, the naval air station offers a vital geo-strategic advantage to India as it overlooks the Strait of Malacca, while dominating the 6 degree channel —  mouth to the strait.

“These crucial waterways continue to engage the interest of most global and regional powers. One of the primary functions of INS Baaz will be to provide information, based on ‘airborne’ maritime surveillance,” Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said at the Campbell Bay while commissioning the new air station.

Though the Navy chief did not take names, the channel is vital to China and South Asian economies as almost a quarter of world’s cargo and 80 per cent of Chinese’s oil passes through these channels.

INS Baaz is situated at a distance of about 300 nautical miles from Port Blair and is actually closer to Indonesia than Indian main land.

The armed forces will operate some of their latest platforms like Navy’s upcoming P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft and Air Force’s C-130J Super Hercules aircraft meant for special operation among others. Last month in a trial run, a C-130J flew non-stop from Hindon to the Campbell Bay.

A Navy official said INS Baaz was equipped to operate light to heavy aircraft capable of short field operations from the 3,500 ft runway, which will be progressively lengthened to enable unrestricted operation of all categories of aircraft, including heavy aircraft in future.The base will also be bolstered with modern airfield instruments and navigation aids.

This may be an indication that in future heavy-lift transport-troop carrier C-17 may also be operating from Baaz.

The Navy is fortifying its infrastructure in the strategically located forward operating bases like Kamorta (Nicobar Islands) and Diglipur (Andaman) as well.

At the same time, the number of warships based at Port Blair, is also on the rise. Port Blair will soon be home for amphibious platforms, offshore patrol vessels and fast attack craft. Strategic infrastructure at the islands is being augmented keeping in mind India’s growing footprints in maritime affairs concerning Indian Ocean where China and India are vying for increased regional importance.

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