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Navy plans a "string of airfields" in Andaman and Nicobar islands

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A file photo of Malacca Straits close to the Indian Ocean choke point.

PORT BLAIR (PTI): Andaman and Nicobar islands will get its air defence infrastructure bolstered with the tri-service military command here working on a project to strengthen a string of airstrips for operating both transport and fighter aircraft.

Navy Chief Nirmal Verma told reporters, during on a visit to the Milan 13-nation naval exercise that began on Friday at the strategically important archipelago on India's east, that a couple of airstrips in Shipur and Campbell were being extended to accommodate large sized transport aircraft.

Currently, these airstrips, with a length of about 1,000 metres, handle only helicopters.

Moreover, the Andaman and Nicobar Command, set up in 2001 as a joint services formation, would also add to its number of the existing 15 ships stationed here in the near future.

"Shipur airfield is with a short airstrip of about 1,000 metres. We hope to increase it slightly. At the moment, only smaller aircraft are being operated from here. We will also provide night vision facility in the course of time," Verma said.

Naval officers pointed out that the plan was to have a "string of airfields" in the archipelago with the capacity to operate all types of aircraft including fighters such as the potent Sukhois.

The airstrips would also be able to handle large transport aircraft like IL-76 and AN-32s in all of these airfields for better coverage of the region, which is close to the Indian Ocean choke point, the Malacca Straits.

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