The maritime reconnaissance on the west coast got a boost with the commissioning of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Squadron at the Naval Air Enclave, Porbander by the Governor of Gujarat, Dr Kamla Beniwal. Designated as INAS 343, this is the first operational UAV squadron under the Western Naval Command. This UAV squadron will enhance the maritime surveillance and coastal security in the region.
Capable of beaming real-time live pictures of maritime targets to commands ashore, these UAVs will enhance the joint war-waging capability in the region by synergising capabilities of Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and local authorities. The commissioning of INAS 343 is a shot in the arm for the Western Naval Command enhancing its capability and reach on the maritime frontiers. The formation of this squadron at Porbander allows Indian Navy to patrol the northern portion of the Arabian Sea. The location is ideal for covering the sea-lanes of communication (SLOCs) coming from the Gulf as well as providing surveillance cover to high value assets on Western Coast.
The Governor of Gujarat, Dr Kamla Beniwal was received at the Naval Air Enclave, Porbander by Vice Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command. She was presented a 50-man ceremonial guard of honour. The ceremony commenced with the recitation of a Sanskrit invocation from the Atharva Veda followed by the unveiling of the commissioning plaque. The Commanding Officer of the INAS 343, Cdr Atulya Dayal read out the commissioning warrant. With the hoisting of the naval ensign and the breaking of the commissioning pennant, the INAS 343 Squadron was formally commissioned in the Indian Navy.
Addressing the gathering after commissioning the INAS 343 Squadron, nick named 'Frontier Formidables', the Governor said that a powerful Navy should be regarded as an appropriate and natural means of power projection, deterrence and national defence. She stated that the induction of these assets into Gujarat will help secure maritime boundaries as well as shipping lanes and territorial waters besides making the 1600-km coastline of Gujarat, with a large number of high value and critical national assets, more secure and tranquil.
In 2002, the Indian Navy procured the maritime versions of Searcher MK II and Heron from Israel. In 2003, post-training of operator crew in Israel, an Intensive Flying Trial Unit (IFTU) was established at Kochi. After three years of extensive flying and trials, the first UAV Squadron in the Indian Navy was commissioned on Jannuary 6, 2006 as INAS 342. This squadron has a dual task of undertaking operational missions besides providing training. Since their induction, the UAVs have taken part in all major exercises of the Indina Navy. The efficacy and usefulness of this aircraft has been proven time and again.