Navy commissions INS Jatayu at Minicoy, MH-60R helicopter squadron at Kochi

This will strengthen the Indian Navy’s foothold in Lakshadweep, and strengthen India’s surveillance posture in the strategically located islands and critical sea lanes of communication

March 06, 2024 04:25 pm | Updated 10:19 pm IST - MINICOY, KOCHI

Indian Navy soldiers stand during the commissioning of its naval base INS Jatayu on Minicoy, in the Lakshadweep archipelago, on March 6, 2024.

Indian Navy soldiers stand during the commissioning of its naval base INS Jatayu on Minicoy, in the Lakshadweep archipelago, on March 6, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

The Indian Navy on Wednesday commissioned INS Jatayu, at Minicoy island in the Lakshadweep Islands, its second base in Lakshadweep after INS Dweeprakshak in Kavaratti.

Later in the day, the Navy commissioned its first MH-60R multi-role helicopter squadron INAS 334 ‘Seahawks’ at Kochi, a major capability boost for its rotary fleet and its anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

INS Jatayu is the beginning of a phased expansion plan to strengthen India’s surveillance and security posture in the strategically located islands close to the Nine Degree channel and critical sea lanes of communication.

“This is very close to the Nine Degree channel, so this is the region [in] which lot of the maritime traffic flows both into and out of the Arabian Sea. So we hope to substantially improve our understanding and graph of the traffic that is flowing through it. So we will know who is operating here, who is passing through this area, what are they doing, what is their intent and so on. It will substantially improve our maritime domain awareness (MDA),” Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar said, speaking to the media at Minicoy.

“Now, by commissioning this establishment, we hope to administer better, improve facilities, improve capacities. There will be more units based here, the radar surveillance capability, ability to provide MDA — all that will increase substantially,” Admiral Kumar said, adding, “In the island of Minicoy, there are plans for improving the jetty infrastructure, which will help us berth larger vessels, as well improving connectivity, [and] improve response and ability.”

INS Jatayu was commissioned at Minicoy island, Lakshadweep in presence of Admiral Hari Kumar, Administrator; Praful K. Patel, Administrator of Lakshadweep; Vice Admiral V. Srinivas, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command ; Vice Admiral Sanjay J. Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command.

It will strengthen the Indian Navy’s foothold in the Lakshadweep islands while extending capacity building, operational reach and sustenance in the region, and will add impetus to overall development of the islands. In this regard, Admiral Kumar noted that that the Navy had responded with “alacrity”, assuming an “assertive posture” in the west and north Arabian Sea, undertaking anti-drone and anti-piracy operations to safeguard all merchant traffic in the region.

In an impressive commissioning ceremony during the day, Admiral Kumar was presented a 50-men Guard of Honour. Following this, Commander Vrat Baghel, the first Commanding Officer of the unit, recited an invocation in Sanskrit, followed by a reading of the commissioning warrant. After the unveiling of the commissioning plaque, the Naval Ensign was hoisted to the tune of national anthem, and with its last note, the commissioning pennant was broken on the mast. After the commissioning ceremony, the maritime operations centre at Minicoy was also inaugurated.

INS Jatayu will be functioning under the operational control of Naval Officer in Charge (Lakshadweep), Southern Naval Command.

Multi-role helicopters

The first MH-60R squadron of 48 officers and 170 men is commanded by Captain M. Abhisheik Ram, an experimental test pilot who has flown over 30 aircraft. The commissioning ceremony commenced with the reciting of an invocation, followed by a reading of the squadron’s commissioning warrant by the Commanding Officer. Thereafter, the commissioning plaque was unveiled by the Naval chief. The ceremony was marked with a scintillating fly-past by a formation of Seahawks, and a traditional water canon salute with four helicopters to mark the historic moment.

India contracted 24 MH-60Rs under a $2.4 billion deal in February 2020 through the foreign military sales programme of the U.S. government. Six helicopters have been delivered so far, and the deliveries are expected to be completed by 2025.

Indian aircrew underwent intensive training at the Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego, U.S. from June 2021. Since July 29, 2022, when India received its first two helicopters, the ‘Romeos’ have flown over 1,100 hours.

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