Almost a year after the Cabinet approval, the Navy has set into motion the process to augment the capacity at Karwar base in north Karnataka, which would house 30 warships and submarines when fully ready.
But the Karnataka government's plan to use a part of the naval air base for civilian flights is unlikely to be realised as the Navy has dropped the idea of opening a full fledged fighter base at Karwar.
“Only helicopters will fly from Karwar because of a small runway. We will not develop Karwar as a base for fighter and fixed wing aircraft, for which the nearby Hansa air station in Goa can be put to use,” said a source, making it clear that Karwar naval air station could not be used for civilian flights.
The air-station was among several infrastructure projects, which will come up in the Rs 13,000 crore Phase-IIA of Project Seabird that received the Cabinet Committee on Security's nod last December.
The naval headquarters in September, 2013 issued Expression of Interest for design consultancy service for dockyard and fleet-base buildings. The responses, received till October end, are being studied at the naval headquarters to identify the vendors, who would be asked to participate in the tender process.
The expansion of Karwar naval base is one of the projects, hit by the budget cut. The finance ministry had sanctioned just about Rs 10 crore in this fiscal to carry out the consultancy activity, sources told Deccan Herald. But more funds are promised in the next financial year.
“Its the beginning of a long 10 year journey. The Navy has about 11000 acres of land, out of which only 20 per cent was used in the first phase. Most of the facilities would come up in the second phase,” said a Navy officer.
India's most modern and biggest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, which is on its way from Russia, will be berthed at Karwar.
Inaugurated by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in October 1986, work on the phase-I of Karwar project was completed after two decades at a cost of Rs 2,628.82 crore. In phase-I, berthing facilities for 11 ships and 10 yard crafts were created, along with an airstrip and a residential township. The initial cost estimate was Rs 350 crore.
In the second phase, 10-12 berths and 6-8 dry berths would be created along with ship-lift capability along with oil dump and weapons depot.