With the Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma formally opening INS Baaz, India’s southernmost naval air station on Tuesday at Cambell Bay in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the country acquired increased ability to mount hawk-like vigil on the vital maritime channel – the Strait of Malacca.
Describing INS Baaz as being “blessed with a brilliant strategic location’’, Admiral Verma said that the location at Cambell Bay, overlooking the Strait of Malacca and also dominating the 6 degree channel would provide an eagle’s eye view over the crucial waterways.
The Naval chief said that one of the primary functions of INS Baaz would be to provide information, based on ‘airborne’ maritime surveillance. “Maritime domain awareness is the key to effective and informed decision making in the maritime arena. Despite numerous advancements in the field of information gathering over sea, airborne surveillance, using aircraft and UAVs, remains invaluable,’’ he said.
Admiral Verma said the commissioning of the naval air station at Campbell Bay was a “small but significant step’’ towards supplementing India’s maritime capability in the islands of the Andaman and Nicobar group which offer a vital geo-strategic advantage to India.
He said the economic potential of Andaman and Nicobar islands was remarkable as they were endowed with a vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), accounting for almost 30 per cent of India’s entire EEZ. “These islands also sit astride some of the busiest shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, most carrying strategic cargo for the East Asian economies,’’ he said.
The new base, about 300 nautical miles from Port Blair, will also include an upgraded airbase, will soon be operating heavier military planes from the Indian Air Force fleet like the just-inducted Hercules C-130J Super Hercules meant for special forces' operations. India already operates naval bases at Port Blair and Car Nicobar in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain. The unique Tri Services Command is also present in Andaman and Nicobar islands.
The government had recently sanctioned numerous steps to fortify infrastructure in the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar chain of Islands with forward operating bases in Kamorta (Nicobar Islands) and Diglipur (Andaman) as well.