Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Navy's largest base INS Vajrakosh on Konkan coast

Navy 'thunder chest' on Konkan coast

INS Vajrakosh. Courtesy: Ministry of defence
New Delhi, Sept 9: Surrounded by the green hills of the Malabar Coast on three sides and the blue waters of the Arabian Sea on the fourth, the Indian Navy's largest base INS Vajrakosh - "thunder chest" - was today commissioned by defence minister Manohar Parrikar.
"Missiles at INS Vajrakosh should always remain ready for operational deployment," said Parrikar.
Vajrakosh is part of "Project Seabird", conceived by the then navy chief, Admiral Oscar Dawson, in 1985 to de-congest Mumbai harbour and locate a naval base beyond the range of Pakistani fighter aircraft.
After delays, mostly because of environment issues and over resettlement of local inhabitants - a subject that Parrikar is familiar with having been chief minister of Goa - Vajrakosh, so called because it will be the repository of the navy's firepower, is now finally on stream.
Along with INS Kadamba that was commissioned in 2005, Vajrakosh will make for one of the largest military bases complete with two airstrips, submarine pens, a ship repair yard, a dry dock, jetties for two aircraft carriers and 50 warships. INS Kadamba has the only shiplift in the country - a giant platform that can lift ships up to 6,500 tonnes (all warships of the Indian Navy barring the aircraft carriers) and place them in a drydock.
The second phase of Project Seabird alone costs Rs 20,000 crore. The first cost Rs 5,000 crore.
The military base has come up along a fascinating coastline where the hills roll down to the sea. It has involved the acquisition of land in which coconut palms swayed gently and thousands of people had to be moved, their houses and temples razed in the North Karanataka district near the border with Goa.
A delegation of villagers met Parrikar after the commissioning and complained that they have not yet been compensated.
The navy chose the location for the natural defences the hills give it. Submarine pens - covered shelters for submarines that make them difficult to detect - are likely to be bored into the hillsides.
A similar base is in the works on the east coast. Called "Project Varsha", the navy plans to base most of its assets for the eastern seaboard a few kilometres south of Visakhapatnam that is currently the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command. Project Varsha involves the resurrection of a Second World War airstrip built by the Americans at Rambili.
Defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said Parrikar was briefed on the future expansion plans of Karwar Naval Base including a proposed air station. The navy wants the air base for its maritime surveillance P8i aircraft and as a base for its helicopters.
It was little wonder that Parrikar said Karwar would be one of the most environment-friendly establishments, given the recent history of displacement and development.
"Karwar will be one of the cleanest naval bases in the world with the least carbon footprint," he said.
In an official statement, the navy said units operating out of Karwar are required to be equipped with specialised armaments and missiles. These sophisticated missiles and ammunition require special storage facility and specialised servicing facilities.
INS Vajrakosh will have all the required infrastructure and is manned by specialists to meet these requirements.
"With the ongoing expansion of the Indian Navy, there has been an increase in the number of ships, submarines and aircraft equipped with specialised armament and missiles. These need to be stowed and maintained in the best possible manner throughout their service life," said the navy chief, Admiral Robin Dhowan.