Inaugurating the facility of extreme strategic importance, Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Naval Command, said it was a significant development from the point of view of naval operations.
The NAE comprises a huge hangar for aircraft and a large dispersal area on the land owned by the Indian Navy adjoining the airport’s runway and taxi track.
“This gives a major boost to surveillance and offensive measures in areas of interest in the Western Seaboard. Decades ago, naval helicopters and Super Constellation surveillance aircraft operated from this airport,” Vice Admiral Luthra said.
The NAE will enable the navy to stage through all types of fixed-wing aircraft owned by it, including highly-potent and versatile Boeing P8I Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) planes.
Presently, the P8I LRMR aircraft are operated from their base at Arakkonam near Chennai, but with the operationalisation of the NAE, they will be operated from Mumbai. This will enable longer sorties in the Arabian Sea and covering of vast areas.
The Indian Navy’s air arm started as a fledgling unit in 1953 and has now grown into a strong force, muscled with 10 Naval Air Squadrons, comprising different types of fixed and rotary wing aircraft.