In May 2006, me and two other correspondents took off in a Navy Chetak off INS Viraat out at sea, circuited low over the ocean and landed at the helo landing area of INS Kunjali. This particular stretch is now being carved out into a new, exclusive helicopter base, the Navy's first.
The Indian Navy will be commissioning this helicopter base, titled INS Shikra on January 22. A commissioning ceremony is planned at Mumbai to usher in the first helicopter base. The air station, will be commissioned by the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), Admiral Sureesh Mehta. Captain Philipose G Pynumootil is the first Commanding Officer of INS Shikra and will read out the Commissioning Warrant.
The air station, which first commenced air operation in 1964 with setting up of a small Helicopter Maintenance Unit (HMU), today provides maintenance and flying support to a diverse range of helicopters operating from naval ships at Mumbai. Operations from here include SeaKing, Kamov-28, Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters. The station also provides Air Traffic Control services to all civil and military helicopters operating in South Mumbai.
The air station will support ship-borne helicopters of the Western Fleet and their maintenance and training requirements. In addition, the proximity of the air station to Mumbai High and Saurashtra region on the West Coast, makes it the preferred site to provide effective air support for protection and security of national assets at short notice.
Shikra, after which the Air Station is being named, is a small aggressive raptor with short broad wings and tall tail adapted for manoeuvrability, agility and speed. The crest of the air station depicts a bolt of lightning in the talons of a Shikra, symbolising the strike power of the aircraft. The red and grey body depicts spirit of the men of "blood and steel" who man the unit and constantly strive for excellence.
LiveFist wishes the new base godspeed.