Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur was commissioned as INS Kohassa by Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of the Naval Staff on January 24, 2019. Mrs Reena Lanba, President, Navy Wives Welfare Association, unveiled the ship’s name plaque. Admiral Sunil Lanba also inaugurated the new Air Traffic Control building. During the ceremony, Chief of the Naval Staff highlighted the importance of the newly raised unit as it enhances the operational capabilities of the Indian Navy in the region and pointed out that the Naval Air Station has been developed as a dual use military and civil airfield. He added that INS Kohassa will complement the Indian Navy’s role as a net security provider in the strategic Indian Ocean Region.
The commissioning ceremony was attended by many dignitaries and senior officials including Vice Admiral Bimal Verma, Commander-in-Chief, Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC). Speaking on the occasion, Vice Admiral Bimal Verma added that along with other air bases in the Andaman & Nicobar Command, INS Kohassa will add to the ANC’s ability to react quickly to emergent situations. The commissioning ceremony included presentation of Ceremonial Guard of Honour, hoisting of the Commissioning Pennant and reading of the Ship’s Warrant by Commander Kuldeep Tripathi, Commanding Officer (Designate).
NAS Shibpur was set up as a Forward Operating Air Base (FOAB) for surveillance in North Andamans. Located in the northern most part of the Andaman & Nicobar (A&N) Islands, the airfield holds strategic importance not only for the security of the Islands but also for its overall development. INS Kohassa has been named after a White-Bellied Sea Eagle, which is a large bird of prey, endemic to A&N Islands. INS Kohassa will become the third Naval Air Station in the A&N Islands after INS Utkrosh at Port Blair and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay.
NAS Shibpur was initially established in 2001 as a FOAB for enhanced surveillance in North Andamans. The close proximity of Coco Islands (Myanmar) and wide expanse of Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) makes the base a very vital asset. These Islands dominate the Bay of Bengal and the Six Degree and Ten Degree channels with more than 60,000 commercial vessels passing through the sea lanes each year.
The airfield provides sustained detached operations of Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard aircraft. The Air Station presently operates Short Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters. These aircraft undertake EEZ Surveillance, Anti-Poaching Missions, Search and Rescue and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions within the Areas of Responsibility of ANC. During the search operations of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Dornier DO 228s aircraft of the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard operated from this very base which established its strategic importance.
INS Kohassa will complement the Indian Navy’s role as a net security provider in the strategic Indian Ocean Region. INS Kohassa will add to the ANC’s ability to react quickly to emergent situations.
This will be India’s fourth air base and the third naval air facility in the region that overlooks key sea lanes of communication and strategic points. With the addition of this airfield, the Andaman and Nicobar Command’s ability to operate independently from all the areas of the Union Territory will get greater boost. Henceforth, INS Kohassa will function as a base for joint operation of both military and civil aircraft in keeping with the Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme of the Government of India. At present, the airbase will be able to handle Helicopter and Dornier Aircraft. With commissioning of INS Kohassa it will be a self-contained Air Station with fuel storage, repair facility, manpower all placed under a designated Commanding Officer.
NAS Shibpur was initially identified by NITI Aayog as one of the ‘Early Bird’ projects as part of holistic island development plan for A&N Islands. Towards this, Indian Navy has been ready in all respects to facilitate civil flight operations from NAS Shibpur. In the due course of time, the runway extension to 10,000 ft has been planned to facilitate operations of wide-bodied aircraft. As per current expansion plan, the runway length will be extended to 3000 metre. This will enable the operation of bigger civil and defence aircraft.