The Hawks of Dega and Surya Kirans
Vayu’s Angad Singh spent some time with the Indian Navy at INS Dega in Visakahapatnam and reports on the Navy’s advanced jet training squadron, INAS 551 Phantoms.
Over the last few years, the Indian Navy has been feverishly working to augment its infrastructure around the country, and nowhere is this drive more apparent than at INS Dega in Visakhapatnam. In addition to a host of improvements to already-existing facilities at the base, as well as construction of allnew infrastructure including additional hangars and aprons, the Navy is also aiming to acquire more land to expand this air station to make it linchpin of the Eastern Naval Command’s aviation capability much in the same way as INS Hansa in Goa serves the Western Naval Command. Indeed, like its WNC counterpart, INS Dega is eventually intended to serve as shore base for an operational squadron of Russian- origin MiG- 29K/ KUB carrier fighters. Once INS Vikrant, the first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) enters service, the entirety of its air wing will also be based at Dega. The station’s present commanding officer, Captain Debanil Bhattacharya, noted that the development work underway would also allow an increase in both military as well as civil aircraft operating on India’s eastern seaboard, an important consideration given that the air station also doubles up as the only air link to the ever important city of Vizag.
INS Dega got off to a rather modest start, with the formation of a helicopter flight under INS Circars adjacent to Visakhapatnam airfield in December 1972. Over a decade later, on 12 March 1986, the airport at Visakhapatnam was transferred from the DGCA/AAI to the Navy and commenced operations as ‘Naval Air Station, Visakhapatnam,’ with one Chetak flight and a few helicopters disembarked from various ships. Construction of additional hangars, aprons, maintenance facilities and an operations complex soon followed and on 21 October 1991, Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas formally commissioned the base as INS Dega.
The base is home to some 40-odd aircraft at any given time and hosts a number of Naval Air Squadrons : INAS 311 ‘Kites,’ a patrol and EW squadron operating Dornier 228 aircraft, INAS 321 ‘Angels,’ with HAL Chetak helicopters in the search and rescue (SAR) role, INAS 333 ‘Eagles,’ with antisubmarine warfare (ASW) Kamov Ka-28
An IN Hawk gets airborne at INS Dega for a training sortie