The Indian Navy which has a major presence in commercial capital Mumbai, inaugurated Naval Air Enclave at Mumbai International airport on 1st February 2017. The Indian Naval Air Enclave, Santa Cruz (NAE Scz) was inaugurated by Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command.
Indian Navy’s air arm comprises of fixed wing fighter MiG-29K, Tu-142, IL-38 and P-8I Neptune. The rotary wing fleet has Dhruv, Ka-28, Ka-31 and Chetak. The Indian Navy Air Arm has had a long presence at Mumbai and this is merely a move to a bigger hanger and a large dispersal on the land which was owned by the Navy on the opposite side of terminal, across the runway.
The press release mentions this to be a significant development from the point of view of Naval Operations, since, it now provides Indian Navy, capability to stage through all types of fixed wing aircraft held in the Naval Inventory including the highly potent and versatile Boeing P8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft. This gives a major boost to the surveillance and offensive measures on the areas of interest in the Western Seaboard. With the operationalization of the NAE at Santa Cruz, the Indian Navy can operate the P8I’s from this enclave thereby enabling them to operate for longer durations in the Arabian Sea resulting in vast area coverage.
As per the Operation, Management and Development Agreement between Airports Authority of India (AAI) & Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd. (MIAL), the Indian Defense Forces have the right to use all facilities free of charge without any restrictions. Mumbai is the second busiest airport in the country and the most congested right now.
The Indian Navy will have more air enclaves at other airports starting with Kochi in next few years.