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Navy to operate UAVs from air station at Uchipuli

C. Jaishankar

3,000-foot runway to be expanded to 6,000 ft

343 acres of land to be acquired to facilitate expansion

RAMANATHAPURAM: The Indian Navy, which commissioned its first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) squadron at Kochi two and half years ago, plans to operate UAVs from the Naval Air Station at Uchipuli near here.

This is expected to enhance the Navy’s surveillance capability along the coast off Tamil Nadu from Tuticorin to Chennai and the sea around southern peninsula. The move is considered an “imperative” step in the context of the prolonged war between Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The programme took shape after the recent visits of Vice Admiral Raman Prem Suthan, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma, Flag Officer Commanding-In-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, and Commodore Phillip Van Haltren, Naval Officer-in-Charge, Tamil Nadu, to the air station.

At least two Israeli-built UAVs based at the Indian Naval Air Squadron at Kochi might be operated from the Naval Air Station at Uchipuli, to be upgraded as a regular commissioned air station. Its 3,000-foot runway will be expanded to 6,000 ft, keeping in mind future requirements. It has been proposed to acquire 343 acres in the nearby areas to facilitate the expansion.

“We will be in a position to station UAVs and operate them round the clock within a year,” Commander P. Rajkumar, Station Commander, Naval Air Station, Uchipuli, told The Hindu.

The focus of the programme was to operate UAVs at a higher altitude from remote.

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