Port Blair: The Indian Navy on Thursday commissioned a new air base in the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar islands as part of efforts to expand operational presence in the Indian Ocean where China has been increasing its military presence.
The new base -- INS Kohassa was inaugurated by Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba in the presence of top naval commanders.
"The close proximity of Coco Islands (Myanmar) and wide expanse of Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) makes the base a very vital asset," said Indian Navy Spokesperson Capt D K Sharma.
Indian Navy has been bolstering its presence in the Indian Ocean in view of China regularly sending warships and submarines to the region.
Over a year back, the Navy had implemented a new plan for deployment of warships in the Indian Ocean region to effectively counter China's growing presence in the strategically key waters.
The 'new mission-based deployment' plan involves deploying mission-ready ships and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communications.
Admiral Lanba highlighted the importance of the newly raised unit as it enhances the operational capabilities of the Navy in the region.
He also pointed out that the Naval Air Station has been developed as a dual use -- military and civil -- airfield.
He said it will help in providing impetus to the Centre's UDAN scheme and will compliment the Navy's role as a net security provider in the strategic Indian Ocean Region
The Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur has been commissioned as INS Kohassa. It is Indian Navy's third naval air facility in the Andamans.
INS Kohassa has been named after a white-bellied sea eagle, which is a large bird of prey, endemic to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
NAS Shibpur was established in 2001 as a forward operating air base (FOAB) for enhanced surveillance in North Andaman.
The air station presently operates short range maritime reconnaissance (SRMR) aircraft and helicopters.
These aircraft undertake EEZ surveillance, anti-poaching missions, search and rescue (SAR) and humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) missions.
As a point of interest, during the search operations of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Dornier DO 228s of the Navy and Coast Guard operated from this very base.