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Coast Guard air squadron likely by 2017-end

VISAKHAPATNAM: To strengthen the security along the vast 974-km coastline of Andhra Pradesh, the Coast Guard has proposed to have an air force station close to INS Dega of the Eastern Naval Command at the Vizag airport premises. The air enclave of Coast Guard Andhra Pradesh is likely to be ready by the end of 2017 with an air squadron of two choppers initially.

According to sources, Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) had allotted 5 acres of land to the Coast Guard. However, the land was later taken back due to the expansion plans of the ENC air strip INS Dega. The VPT is now considering giving land to the Coast Guard again, which requires 10 to 12 acres for the air enclave. The Coast Guard had obtained the necessary permission for the air station that would be called as Air Enclave, sources said.

“The VPT has assured us that it would provide alternative land for the air enclave. Once the land is handed over to us, we will seek necessary permissions for the construction of structures like a hangar and also strengthen the land simultaneously. By the end of 2017, the process of establishing the Air Enclave would be on,” Coast Guard IG SP Sarma said.

He said an air squadron would be helpful to check the intrusion of unlawful elements into the Andhra Pradesh coast. They might bring in the Dornier aircraft as well, besides helicopters, the IG said. Presently, the Coast Guard has only one chopper for surveillance. But with the help of Chennai or Bhubaneswar centres, Dorniers are pressed into action during emergencies, he said.

Presently, the coast guard region across Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh has 15 aircraft, 33 commissioning ships and 15 non-commission vessels. The country has 120 ships, 63 aircraft with a strength of around 10,000 personnel. Coast Guard IG SP Sarma said that the number would reach 150 ships and 100 aircraft by 2019. Another 125 ships are under construction at various ship building centres. Many vessels are on the verge of being decommissioning as well.

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