The commissioning of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle squadron at the naval air station near Uchipuli in Ramanathapuram district will expand the reach of the Indian Navy along the eastern coast to a great extent, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Commanding-In-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, said on Wednesday.

“With the commissioning of INAS 344, the navy's third UAV squadron at the INS Parundu, and the planned extension of the runway [of INS Parundu], the operation reach, sustenance and relevance of the base will increase exponentially. The development of Sethusamudram project also underscored the significance of INS Parundu in general and INAS with her UAVs particular,” Vice Admiral Chopra said at the function to mark the squadron's induction.

Tracing the history of the establishment of INS Parundu at Uchipuli, he said the airfield was taken over by the Navy from the Airport Authority of India in 1985 and the air base was activated during Operation Pawan in 1987 and had been extensively utilised for operations of fixed and rotary wing assets in support of naval operations. INS Parundu had been located at a strategic location of the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay. The air station had been undertaking operational tasking of immense import to the nation and Navy. And now, with the induction of UAVs, the Indian Navy and the air station would vastly enhance the surveillance capabilities in the region.

Stressing the need for increasing the capability of UAV, Mr. Chopra said the significance of the Indian Ocean region and the international trade passing therein were well known. Hence, the future plans of UAV capability had been drawn up, keeping the maritime interests of the country in these regions in perspective.

He said the UAV was a significant asset class in aviation. UAVs could carry a wide variety of payload that included electro-optical, radar and others. These platforms were designed for long endurance and significant time on task. But they were limited in transit speed, data link range, payloads and weapon capability. However, the UAVs could be operated from platforms that are afloat as integral air assets.

Mr. Chopra said the commissioning of UAV squadron would provide value addition to the surveillance capability of the Eastern Naval Command and augment the efforts at enhancing coastal security along the east coast.

Commodore Amar K. Mahadevan, Naval Officer-In-Charge, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, Captain A.B. Bellary, Commanding Officer, INS Parundu, Commander Vinit Anand, Commanding Officer, INAS 344 and others took part.

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