Navy commissions new base in Andamans

Naval Air Station Shibpur, being used by the Indian Navy since 2001, has been commissioned as INS Kohassa by the Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba. (PTI File Photo)

India on Thursday commissioned a new naval base in the Andaman sea that would enable the force to expand its footprint in the strategically important Indian Ocean region.

Naval Air Station Shibpur, being used by the Indian Navy since 2001, has been commissioned as INS Kohassa by the Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba.

The base has been named after a type of White-Bellied Sea Eagle, which is a large bird of prey, endemic to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Commissioning of the base would lead to the immediate and permanent deployment of more than 100 persons at the base whose close proximity to Coco Islands in Myanmar and wide expanse of Indian Exclusive Economic Zone makes it a very vital asset.

Initially Navy would operate its Dornier aircraft and helicopters from the base. Later there are plans to extend the runway up to 10,000 ft, which would allow the Indian military to operate all types of aircraft from the island – from surveillance or transport planes like P8I and C-130J and C-17 to the fighter jets being flown by the Navy and Indian Air Force.

Four years ago, during the search operations of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Indian Navy and Coast Guard operated their Dornier DO 228s from this base, said a Navy official.

Before commissioning, the facilities at the Shibpur base was upgraded. It now houses staging facilities, fuel dump besides maintenance and repair facilities. The presence of personnel on the base including senior officers has been enhanced.

The Navy currently operates airstrips at Port Blair and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay, while the Air Force has an establishment in Car Nicobar. This would be Indian military's fourth port at the eastern islands.

The expansion of Indian military presence in the Indian Ocean region comes at a time when there is a tussle between Indian and Chinese navies on the control of the sea and critical shipping lanes of communications through which the bulk of the world's oil and cargo moves.

The Shibpur naval base has also been identified by NITI Aayog as one of the Early Bird projects under which the government plans to improve the infrastructure on the islands in order to improve their commercial potential.

For instance, military air stations in the eastern archipelago can be used as a hub for tourists to fly to South East Asia because popular tourist destinations like Phuket (1.5 hours) Bangkok (2) and Singapore (3.5 hours) are just a few hours of flying away.

The navy would be ready to facilitate civil flight operations from the naval air station Shibpur, said an official.

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Navy commissions new base in Andamans

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