Kochi: September 19 is a red-letter day for this rather obscure depot perched on some 530-acres of verdant campus north of Kalamassery. It is when the Naval Armament Depot (NAD), Aluva, will complete 50 years of commendable service to the nation. The lay people outside would also have something to celebrate on the occasion, as they would get a peek at what is in store at NAD. Literally! The naval ammo display outside the campus will be the first of its kind in these parts.
One of the six NADs in the country—the rest being in Visakhapatnam, Goa, Mumbai, and Sunbeda and Balasore in Orissa—the depot in Aluva was a corollary of the build-up of naval training schools in Kochi. Although its construction commenced in 1953, the full-fledged depot with magazines—storage houses—and armament workshops only got ready five years later. “Vice-Admiral R.D. Katari, Chief of the Naval Staff, declared open to-day an armament depot of the Indian Navy, the first of its kind to be set up after the last war, at Alwaye,” read the news item that appeared with a September 19 dateline in The Hindu dated September 21, 1958.
“It [the depot] supplied the Gunnery School’s [presently, INS Dronacharya] Naval Battery at Fort Cochin with ammunition for seaward firing practices. It was made responsible for meeting the needs of all Naval NCC Units for small arms and small arms practice ammunition” is how the depot is described in Transition to Triumph, the official history of the Navy compiled by Vice Admiral (retd.) G.M. Hiranandani.
With 600 employees, it has evolved into a major depot headed by a Chief General Manager (CGM), who is from the specialised Indian Naval Armament Service that caters for its core supervisory personnel. Says M.D. Gadre, the incumbent CGM: “The upkeep and storage of ammunition, armaments and launchers of the Navy, Coast Guard and NCC is the sole responsibility of the depot.” Its detachment at Kochi Port handles whatever explosives, irrespective of which agency brought it, arriving there.
While the serviceability of arms and ammo stored in the depot is ensured by way of periodic checks and sampling, replenishment is done abiding by the UN classification.
The concept of weapons acceptance trials, mooted in 1970s, was a breakthrough as it gave rise to a host of teams to carry out harbour acceptance trials and sea acceptance trials that ensured combat-readiness of weapons. Concurrently, the Warship Workup Organisation (WWO) came to being.
The depot in Aluva houses a residential colony, with some 150 quarters, a Kendriya Vidyalaya and is self-sufficient like any industrial complex. Three platoons of Defence Security Corps personnel guard the sprawling campus that has perimeter security and a quick-response fire fighting organisation to meet emergencies.
The employees are also trained in ammunition safety measures. While old magazines have hand-operated overhead cranes, modern ones have flameproof and spark-proof electrical cranes. A rail-cum-road link connects the depot to the world outside. While efforts are under way to get Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Chief of the Naval Staff, to inaugurate the golden jubilee celebrations, the Postal Department will release a first day cover to mark the occasion.
Besides, the depot will hold a seminar on modern trends in ammunition maintenance for a select gathering. The golden jubilee issue of its in-house journal, Synergy, will also be released.