NATIONAL

Navy to set up new air base in Port Blair

Later this month, the Indian Navy will commission a new airbase 100 miles north of Port Blair in the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar islands.

“The base, INS Kohassa, will be commissioned by Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on January 24,” spokesperson Capt D.K. Sharma said.

This will be India’s fourth air base and the third naval air facility in the archipelago, which are more closer to Southeast Asia than to the Indian mainland, overlooking key sea lanes of communication and strategic choke points.

The base will initially operate choppers and Dornier short-range surveillance aircraft, Capt. Sharma said.

The naval air station near Diglipur port is being converted into a full-fledged base and would extend India’s foot print over the East Asian region. For instance, Myanmar and Thailand are about 500 km away from INS Kohassa.

It will initially have a runway of about 3000 ft. which will in phases be extended to 9000 ft. to support all kinds of aircraft including fighter jets.

As part of the upgrade, the base will feature staging facilities, fuel dump and maintenance and repair facilities and a complement of personnel would be positioned there.

The Navy currently operates air strips at Port Blair and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay, while the Air Force has a base in Car Nicobar.

With increased contestation in the region and in an effort to keep an eye on movements, India has considerably upgraded military infrastructure and facilities and deployed long range assets to monitor the region including the Malacca Strait. The islands also houses India’s only tri-service command.

The base can also act as an alternate runway to Port Blair for civilian traffic in case of emergencies.