The latest addition to the air arm of the Eastern Naval Command at INS Dega is the ‘White Tiger’ squadron. The squadron is a carrier-based squadron that came into existence in the early 1960s on the western side and basically comprised the Sea Hawks.

The Hawks were later replaced by the Sea Harriers that were on board INS Vikrant and INS Viraat, in the later part. Post- decommissioning of INS Viraat, the Harriers faded into oblivion, and in came the state-of-the-art fighter aircraft such as Mikoyan MiG-29K.

The MiG-29Ks form the White Tiger squadron and are part of the air arm of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. It is learnt that the MiG-29Ks will also be on board INS Vikrant, the indigenous carrier that is in the making at Kochi.

Sources in the Navy said that while Vikramaditya will be based at Karwar on the western seaboard, Vikrant is likely to be based in Vizag. And that is one reason why the squadron has been strategically moved to INS Dega.

Turnaround Base

Carrier-borne fighters have less endurance and they need a turnaround base for refuelling and maintenance. INS Dega is tipped to be the turnaround base for the MiGs, said a naval officer.

In the early part of the 1970s, the Navy initially started aviation operations in Visakhapatnam, with the construction of four helipads adjacent to the civil airfield and it was renamed and commissioned as INS Dega in 1991.

Naval authorities say that when air operations were started, the airfield was away from the city. Later, the city grew rapidly around it and it is difficult to move it to another place in a short time. It is learnt that options are being worked out. “It is just a matter of time and a bit of cooperation, and one should not forget that the Navy has a huge role in the development of the city,” said a senior officer.