In a big boost to enhance maritime security and defend India’s security interest in the region, the Indian Navy is set to open its the third naval air base in the strategic Andaman and Nicobar islands.
According to reports, on Thursday, the Indian Navy has commissioned Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur as INS Kohassa making it the third Navy air facility in the Andaman and Nicobar islands to keep eyes on the important sea lanes of communication and strategic points. The Indian Navy will now deploy the INS Kohassa air base for surveillance of Chinese ships and submarines entering the Indian Ocean through the nearby Malacca Straits.
INS Kohassa – A new bird’s nest in the Andamans commissioned by Admiral Sunil Lanba CNS @SpokespersonMoD @DefenceMinIndia @nsitharaman @IAF_MCC @IndiaCoastGuard @adgpi pic.twitter.com/BdynxrATzx
— SpokespersonNavy (@indiannavy) January 24, 2019
The commissioning of INS Kohassa, situated about 300 km (180 miles) north of the archipelago’s capital Port Blair, will have huge strategic implications for the country as Indian Navy can operate independently in its own air facility which opens up for more surveillance over Indian Ocean region from the Bay of Bengal to Malacca Straits. More than 1,20,000 ships pass through the Indian Ocean each year and nearly 70,000 of them pass through the Malacca Strait alone.
INS Kohassa draws its name from a large white-bellied sea eagle, a bird of prey endemic to the Andamans.
The NAS Shibpur was set up as a Forward Operating Air Base (FOAB) for surveillance in North Andaman and will be renamed as INS Kohassa. Located in the northernmost part of the islands, the airfield holds strategic importance not only for the security of the islands but also for its overall development.
“The facility, the third in the islands, will have a 1,000-metre runway for helicopters and Dornier surveillance aircraft. But eventually, the plan is for the runway to be extended to 3,000 metres to support fighter aircraft and longer-range reconnaissance aircraft,” said navy spokesman Captain D.K. Sharma.
INS Kohassa will become the third Naval Air Base in the region after INS Utkrosh at Port Blair at Veer Savarkar International Airport and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay, while Indian Airforce has an independent air base at Car Nicobar known as Car Nicobar AFS. The Naval air station will also function as a base for joint operation of both military and civil aircraft to implement UDAN scheme of the government.
Strengthening Naval power in the Indian Ocean Region has been a key focus of India after the Modi government came to power.