INS Dega: Quintessence of Might and Power

By Ms Bhavyashree GNS, Research Intern, Maritime History Society

   

Crest of INS Dega (L), INS Dega, Visakhapatnam (R)

INS Dega is a Naval Air Station of the Indian Navy in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. Naval Aviation is one of the crucial elements which makes the use of manned air power in armed conflicts by a sea-based military force. The Naval Aviation wing of the Indian Navy plays a significant role in not only harnessing the naval capability, but also contributes in the comprehensive understanding of defence consciousness of the navy. Thus, the Naval Air Arm facilitates aspects like combat capability in areas that are beyond the range and jurisdiction of the land-based Air Force Aircraft. Being equipped with the provision of aircraft carrier-borne strikes, it is relatively easier to engineer accessibility against maritime targets, while also maintaining air defence of the fleet. The Wing also performs different roles of survey, examination, patrol, and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) by making use of a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft and helicopters which are shore and/ or ship-based.[i]

The term Dega originates from the Telugu word ‘dega’ which refers to a big and powerful bird of the eagle family. INS Dega was formally commissioned by Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas in 1991. However, prior to this, the Naval Aviation Wing operated as Naval Air Station, Visakhapatnam. From the period of 1970s, Indian Navy began air-borne naval operations in the East Coast of India, which required a base for its functioning and administration. Thus, the unit was primarily commenced with the formation of 321 flight at INS Circars on 23 December 1972. In the following few decades, the station expanded which included the setting up of helipad with hangar, and as a part of its development, a Chetak flight along with a few disembarked helicopters of ship-borne flights were inducted, forming to be an integral part of the unit.[ii]

Presently, INS Dega contributes to the operations of the Eastern Fleet of Indian Navy while also being responsible for maintaining and monitoring the coastal security off the East Coast. In its essence as a Naval Air Wing, Dega provides all operational, technical, administrative, and logistic support to all service flying operations. Further, the East Coast of the subcontinent is highly prone to cyclones every year due to the oceanic conditions in the Bay of Bengal.[iii] Therefore, the unit also plays a vital role in conducting search and rescue of civilian personnel who are stranded during the conditions of natural calamities.

Being a unit of Naval Air Station, INS Dega is also subject to professional and partly-diplomatic exchanges with its neighbouring nations. One such instance can be recounted marking the recent interactions between the Bangladesh Navy Ship (BMS) Somudra Avijan and INS Dega that were held in 2021. The series of exchange encompassed exhibiting the various degrees of air-borne operations in the maritime domain, and a brief showcase on the aircrafts organised in the Naval Aviation Wing.[iv]

INS Dega has undergone a long trajectory of growth marked by its achievements. The air station has evolved into supporting Fleet/ENC operations complimented by operational preparedness of the flying units. In 2007, a 10,000 ft long runway was initiated which also allowed night flying by an aircraft. One of the most engaging aspects of growth is the outset of the unit to private sector which, till date, contributes to a significant escalation in the civil air traffic. This further led to the exponential growth in the assets of the station and aided in newer inductions. A commendable note would be the fact that all of this heavy air traffic has not just been effectively handled by the air station but also played a vital role in maintaining flight safety and a crucial cornerstone, for its geographic and oceanographic conditions. This was largely ensured by taking proactive measures to avoid major mishaps.[v]

Considering the key features and contributions of INS Dega, a plan has been proposed to inculcate massive expansion of the airbase. This would include maximizing the current 1100 acres to 1500 acres. The impacts of this plan are multi-fold. Firstly, the unit will be able to hold and manage a greater volume of naval aviation. Subsequently, this would also lead to even better administration and management of the airbase as the greater infrastructure will accommodate all the full squadrons. The future plans of Naval Aviation units are vast and ever expanding. INS Dega has been one of the most instrumental units of Indian Navy in the East Coast.[vi]

Endnotes:

[i] Union Performance Audit Report, Chapter II: Functioning of the Aviation Arm of the Indian Navy, p. 35-37

[ii] INS Dega, Indian Navy, accessed from- https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/content/ins-dega

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] The Hans India, dated October 6 2021, accessed from- https://www.thehansindia.com/news/cities/visakhapatnam/visakhapatnam-bangladesh-navy-witnesses-dctf-demo-709689?infinitescroll=1

[v] Purohit, R Jugal, ‘Navy Initiates ‘Look East’ for Lethal MiG29K’, India Today, dated August 25 2014, accessed from- https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/navy-look-east-for-lethal-mig29k-vishakapatnam-china-205478-2014-08-25

 

[vi] Ibid.

Image sources:  

  1. https://cag.gov.in/uploads/download_audit_report/2010/Union_Performance_Defence_Union_Government_Air_Force_and_Navy_7_2010_chapter_2.pdf
  2. https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/content/advanced-light-helicopters-inducted-ins-dega

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