Indian Navy’s maritime operations will get another shot in the arm as it prepares to open a new naval air station called 'Baaz' in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands this month. The Naval Air Station ‘Baaz’, literally meaning Hawk, will keep a vigil over Malacca Strait and will come up at Campbell Bay which lies at the southern tip of India. The new base will heighten India's strategic reach in the region as it can now launch its operations from deep inside Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.
According to Indian Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, the Naval Air Station (NAS) Campbell Bay is one of the most crucial shipping lanes of the world. The NAS at Campbell Bay will be renamed 'Baaz' and it will soon become India's eye over the Malacca strait and the Bay of Bengal. Malacca Straits acts as a link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and connects East Asia, Australia and the US with Asia and Africa.
Indian Navy plans to have an upgraded air base at NAS Baaz which will facilitate the operation of heavier military planes like the recently acquired C 130Js from the US. While India already has two naval bases at Port Blair and Car Nicobar in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain, NAS Baaz will be a major boost for maritime security in Malacca Starits since almost a quarter of the world's trade passes through it.
The advent of the NAS Baz will clearly grant supremacy to India in the region since it already has three air strips at Diglipur in north Andamans, Port Blair, and at Carnic in Nicobar Islands. Uptil now, India had a major forward operating base in Carnic. However, the new naval base ‘Baaz’ is about 300 nautical miles from Carnic in the south eastern fringe, which is a significant boost to the India’s strategic reach.
According to media reports, the air strip at Campbell Bay will be increased substantially from the present 3000 odd feet to over 6000 feet. Currently, the Campbell Bay air field is used sparingly and it does not have a facility to either maintain or refuel aircrafts. However, the expansion of the air strip implies that NAS Baaz will have hangars for repair and maintenance of aircraft. Earlier this year, heavy transport aircraft like the C130J have already landed at Campbell Bay.
According to Defence analysts, the creation of NAS Baaz into a fully-fledged forward operating base will be instrumental in maintaining control in a very volatile region. The recent spate of piracy attacks along the horn of Africa and Arabian Sea has also given nations like China a reason to deploy warships in the region. On the other hand, the US has stated that it proposes to deploy at least 60 per cent of US Naval assets in Asia-Pacific as a part of its new military strategy for Asia-Pacific region.