Indian Navy to commission new base and helicopter squadron in Lakshadweep and Kochi

Indian Navy new base and helicopter squadron

New Delhi: The Indian Navy is gearing up for a double boost to its operational capabilities and security infrastructure in the Lakshadweep islands and the coast of Kochi. On March 6, the Navy will commission a new base, INS Jatayu, in the Minicoy Islands of Lakshadweep, and a new squadron of MH 60R Seahawk multi-role helicopters at the INS Garuda in Kochi.

INS Jatayu: India’s second naval base in Lakshadweep

INS Jatayu will be India’s second naval base in the Lakshadweep islands, after INS Dweeprakshak in Kavaratti. The new base will strengthen India’s foothold in the strategically important archipelago, which lies close to the vital sea lines of communication (SLOCs) in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The base will be commissioned in the presence of Adm R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff, who took charge on February 28. The commissioning will mark an important milestone in the Navy’s resolve to incrementally augment security infrastructure at the Lakshadweep islands, which have been facing threats from piracy, smuggling, and terrorism.

INS Jatayu will also usher in a new era of capacity building and comprehensive development of the island territories, in line with the government of India’s focus on the holistic and sustainable growth of the islands. The base will enhance the operational reach and facilitate the Indian Navy’s operational effort towards anti-piracy and anti-narcotics operations in the western Arabian Sea. It will also augment the Indian Navy’s capability as the first responder in the region and augment connectivity with the mainland.

The new base will be built on the existing Naval Detachment Minicoy, which was established in the early 1980s under the operational command of the Naval Officer-in-Charge (Lakshadweep). Minicoy, the southernmost island in Lakshadweep, is about 200 km from the Maldives and 400 km from the Indian mainland. The island has a population of about 10,000 people and a land area of 4.8 sq km.

The new base will have the requisite infrastructure and resources to support an independent naval unit, which will enhance the overall operational capability of the Indian Navy in the islands. The base will also provide logistic support and maintenance facilities for the naval ships and aircraft operating in the area.

INAS 334: India’s first squadron of MH 60R helicopters

Meanwhile, the coast of Kochi is all set to witness the pinnacle of airborne supremacy of the Indian Navy next week when it inducts the aerial marvel, the MH 60R helicopter into its fleet, bolstering the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will commission the newly inducted MH 60R Seahawk multi-role helicopter at the INS Garuda on March 6, Navy officials said. The squadron will be commissioned in the Indian Navy as INAS 334, under the Command of Captain M Abhishek Ram.

The Indian government signed a deal with the United States of America in February 2020, to acquire 24 fourth-generation MH 60R helicopters, worth $2.6 billion, under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Six of them have been delivered to the Indian Navy so far, and the rest are expected to arrive by 2025.

The MH 60R is one of the most advanced maritime helicopters in the world, capable of performing a variety of roles, such as ASW, anti-surface warfare (ASuW), search and rescue (SAR), electronic warfare (EW), and special operations. The helicopter is equipped with a state-of-the-art sensor suite, including a multi-mode radar, a sonobuoy launcher, a dipping sonar, and an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera. The helicopter can also carry a range of weapons, such as torpedoes, missiles, and advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) rockets.

Indian Navy new base and helicopter squadron

The self-protection suite on the helicopter comprises Chaff and Infrared Flares, which can be deployed automatically upon detection of a threat, Lieutenant Commandant Aneesh Ayarotil, one of the trained pilots of MH 60R said. The helicopter also has a Link 16 data link, which enables seamless integration with other naval assets and platforms.

The induction of the MH 60R helicopters will significantly enhance the Indian Navy’s ASW capabilities, which have been a priority area for the Navy given the growing submarine threat in the IOR. The helicopters will also augment the Navy’s ASuW, SAR, and EW capabilities, and provide a formidable edge to the Indian Navy in the maritime domain.