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India to Base Its Fighter Jets on Andaman & Nicobar Islands in Bengal Bay

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands host India's single tri-service command. Currently, fighter jets need to be flown in from the mainland, at least 1,200 km away. With the new air base on Great Nicobar, larger fighters like the Su-30MKI can be stationed on site.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — In a bid to augment its resources in the Indian Ocean Region, India's newly formed Defense Planning Council has decided to build an all-new permanent airbase on Great Nicobar Island, in addition to the present Carnic air force base on Car Nicobar Island. The airbase would be able to station larger aircraft like Su-30MKI and other combat assets.

Official sources told Sputnik on Thursday that the Defense Planning Council has ordered a feasibility study for the proposed air base on the Great Nicobar Island and has also decided to expedite the process of extending the present runway and other infrastructure at the Carnic air base and the nearby Baaz air station at Campbell Bay which is located 240 km from the mouth of the Strait of Malacca — a vital geo-strategic point which connects the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.

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"Andaman and Nicobar Islands oversee one of the most strategically and economically important sea lanes passing through Malacca Strait. They have huge tourism and military potential. An airbase, nearly 800 km away from the mainland, will greatly increase the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy aircraft reach into the Indian Ocean. Su-30MKI with air refueling capability will be able to reach all possible target areas in South East Asia. It is a great decision with strategic implications in India's favor," Air Marshal (retired) Anil Chopra told Sputnik. 

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Apart from the two air bases, work on Shibpur naval air station has also been expedited where the Indian armed forces currently operate the Dornier, Mi-8, Chetak aircraft. The present runway length at Shibpur is over 1,000 meters where only a few defense aircraft can land. The runway length will be extended to 3000 meters for the operation of wide-bodied defense aircraft.

"A deepwater port at Kamorta is also being planned to enhance Indian maritime capability on the Eastern seaboard. On the Western coast, a bigger naval facility on the Minicoy island is being planned to beef up India's naval presence," Nitin A Gokhale, a security analyst and founder of BharatShakti said.

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The Indian Armed Forces have been expanding their strength on the strategically important Andaman and Nicobar Islands since long. The Indian Navy has so far commissioned four of its eight amphibious landing craft at tri-service command headquarters in Port Blair. It has also stationed long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the Poseidon 8I planes to keep a tab on the movement of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean. Soon, India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will also set up a long-range missile facility on South Andaman's Rutland Island.

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