Port Blair: With hundreds of uninhabited islands in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago making it vulnerable from the security perspective, India is planning to open more airbases in the islands.
Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma Friday said India was planning to revamp the infrastructure in the 572 islands in the Bay of Bengal.
"The airstrip up north (Northern Andaman islands) needs to be refurbished. Even for smaller aircraft it is a tight fit," Verma told reporters here.
The airfield at Shibpur is about 1,000 feet in length and is inadequate for smaller cargo aircraft like Dornier and AN-32. Currently, only helicopters are capable of conducting operations from the airfield.
More airfields and helipads will boost the surveillance and logistics capability of the Indian armed forces along the archipelago, located about 700 nautical miles away from the Indian mainland.
Senior officials say more airfields in the Andaman and Nicobar tri-service command are also in the offing.
Presently, there are airbases in Port Blair, Car Nicobar, and Campbell Bay. According to senior Indian Naval officers, plans are afoot to spread out air power in other islands like Katchul and Hut Bay.
"We also intend to bring in night landing facility at the airbases," Verma said.
The Indian Navy recently inducted its amphibious vessel Landing Ship Tank (LST) in the Andaman and Nicobar command.
"We have inducted an LST and soon we will be inducting Operation Patrol Vehicles constructed at the Goa Shipyard Limited," Verma said.
Andaman and Nicobar islands are significant for increasing surveillance in the Indonesian Strait and the Bay of Bengal. It would also help India extend its maritime power in South China Sea before the Chinese foreclose the option.