India’s maritime operations will receive a significant boost as a key naval station called INS Baaz will be opened today in southern Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The Naval Air Station ‘Baaz’, literally meaning Hawk, will perform surveillance over Malacca Strait and will come up at Campbell Bay which lies at the southern tip of India.
Besides keeping a hawk-eye over Malacca Strait, naval station INS Baaz will have an upgraded air base that will be able to operate the newly inducted Hercules C-130J heavy lift aircraft. INS Baaz will overlook Malacca Strait which has recurrently witnessed piracy and threatened maritime activities as well trade. The Strait of Malacca is a key link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean connecting Asia and Africa to East Asia, Australia and the US.
Earlier this month, Indian Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma had stated that the Naval Air Station (NAS) at Campbell Bay will be renamed ‘Baaz’. The NAS at Campbell Bay is one of the most crucial shipping lanes of the world. The new naval 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.
At present, Indian Navy already operates bases at Port Blair and Car Nicobar in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain. As for the new naval station Baaz, it will clearly grant Indian navy superiority in the region since it already has three air strips at Diglipur in north Andamans, Port Blair, and at Carnic in Nicobar Islands. As for the new naval base ‘Baaz’, it is about 300 nautical miles from Carnic in the south eastern fringe which will be a major leap in India’s strategic reach.
Meanwhile, plans are afoot to increase the air strip at Campbell Bay from the present 3000 odd feet to over 6000 feet. 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. The heavy transport aircraft like the C130J have already landed at Campbell Bay.
A full-fledged forward operating base like INS Baaz will be crucial in maintaining control by the navy in a very volatile region where a host of maritime activities take place. With a series of piracy attacks along the horn of Africa and Arabian Sea, nations like China have started to deploy warships in the region. Meanwhile, even 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.