New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) India Tuesday opened a new naval base at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands southernmost fringe of Campbell Bay, giving it the ability to keep an eye on the maritime traffic and security scenario in the Strait of Malacca and the Six Degree Channel.
Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma declared the naval base, INS Baaz (Hawk), operational in the presence of tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command chief Lt. Gen. Naresh C. Marwah and Chief of Integrated Defense Staff Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha.
"One of the primary functions of INS Baaz will be to provide information, based on airborne maritime surveillance," Verma said after the opening ceremony.
"Maritime domain awareness is the key to effective and informed decision making in the maritime arena. Despite numerous advancements in the field of information gathering over sea, airborne surveillance, using aircraft and UAVs, remains invaluable," he said.
INS Baaz is situated at a distance of about 300 nautical miles from Port Blair and is the southernmost military station of the Indian armed forces.
"In this context, therefore, Baaz is a very appropriate name as this base will provide an eagle's eye view over these waters, the Andaman and Nicobar islands and the strategic sea lines of communication that abound these areas," Verma said.
The crest of the naval station depicts an Andaman serpent eagle, endemic to these islands, flying against the blue background of the oceans.
"The flying eagle signifies the vigil being maintained by our aircraft over the vast expanse of the seas, contributing to maritime security during peacetime, while being prepared to aggressively pursue an adversary in war," the navy chief added.
Noting that INS Baaz is blessed with a brilliant strategic location, Verma said: "Situated on this southernmost island of the Nicobar group, Campbell Bay overlooks the Strait of Malacca, while also dominating the Six Degree Channel. These crucial waterways continue to engage the interest of most global and regional powers."
He said the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, separated as it is by more than 650 nautical miles from the mainland, offers a vital geo-strategic advantage to India.
"Not only do they provide the nation with a commanding presence in the Bay of Bengal, the islands also serve as our window into East and South East Asia," he said, adding that "they also sit astride some of the busiest shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, most carrying strategic cargo for East Asian economies."
The navy chief also pointed out that the archipelago was a key military lauchpad for India, noting that Port Blair would be home to amphibious platforms, naval offshore patrol vessels, and fast attack craft, as the navy's robust acquisition plans progress over the next two decades.
INS Baaz is currently equipped to operate light to heavy aircraft capable of short field operations from the runway of about 3,500 feet. The runway will be progressively lengthened to enable unrestricted operation of all category of aircraft including heavy aircraft. The base will also be bolstered with modern airfield instruments and navigation aids.
Commander S.K. Singh Deo will be the commanding officer of INS Baaz.