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Sulur airfield lies on the outskirts of Coimbatore town, which nestles at the foothills of the Nilgiris. Used as an aircraft yard by the Royal Navy in World War II, it had little to offer in terms of accommodation or support services. Therefore, not surprisingly, the RN Officers after work would retire into the hills to reach Connoor in time for a "Sun downer". Abandoned by the RN after the War, Sulur was taken up as a storage depot by the IAF. This was the place where INS Hansa was to take birth a few years later.

Our Naval Air Arms came into being on 17th Dec 1952 when the first Sealand Mk 1 L was accepted into service at RAF Sydenham. Based at INS Garuda, Cochin, these aircraft were joined over the next few years by other piston engine types like the Firefly target tugs and the HT2 trainers. It was only in September 1957 that air arm received its first jets; three Vampires Mk 52 and a trainer. This quarter comprised the newly formed jet training flight (JTF) commanded by Lt Cdr BD Law. Since Cochin was unsuited for the jet operations, the JTF was based at Sulur.

In 1961, it was decided to amalgamate all Naval contingents and detachments at Sulur and Coimbatore under one establishment. Thus on 5th September, INS Hansa was commissioned under the Command of Lt Cdr T Chakarvarti. It soon became evident that Sulur was not suitably located or equipped to support new aircraft carriers squadron. In December 1961, after the liberation of Goa, it was decided that the former Portuguese airfield at Dabolim would make an ideal base for disembarked carrier aircraft. Thus as soon as minimum operational facilities were established, INS Hansa prepared to move to its permanent abode near the sea. On 18th June 64, INAS 551 and all administrative facilities were shifted and Hansa's commissioning pennant flew at Dabolim.

The Bangladesh War of 1971 provided an opportunity for our squadrons to practice in war, what they had learnt over years of peacetime training. Operating from INS Vikrant in the waters of the Bay of Bengal, Sea Hawks and Alizes of INAS 300 and 310, repeatedly attacked targets ashore and at sea with divesting effect. Airfields, harbors, ammunition dumps, gun boats and merchant ships were set ablaze in a sustained offensive which played a vital role in bringing about fall of erstwhile East Pakistan. Off the West Coast also Naval Aircraft maintained a constant vigil against intrusions by enemy ships, submarines and aircrafts.

The squadrons returned triumphantly to Dabolim in early 1972 to be received as heroes. They had won one Mahavir Chakra, eleven Vir Chakras, one Nao Sena Medal and three Mentions-in-Dispatches. Unfortunately, the war took its toll when a PAF Starfighter off Jamnagar shot one of our Alizes down with all crew.

With the induction of IL-38 & Dornier aircraft, the eyes and ears of the Navy now extended thousands of miles across the seas. No ship or submarine can be deployed in the Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal without one of Hansa's aircraft watching it. This ability is responsible for providing search cover for ships and aircrafts, which may be in distress over the sea. In March 1993, yet another bird was added to Hansa's growing aviary when we commissioned a squadron of twin-engine Kamov-28 ASW helicopters, designated INAS 339.

From a small beginning in 1961, INS Hansa has come a long way over the past 43 Years to assume an eminent position, not only as the premier Naval Air Station, but also as one of the largest military air bases in the country. Our aircrew fly a wide variety of complex helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts many of which are amongst the most advanced in the world. In Hansa's workshops can be found some of the most sophisticated pieces of machinery and avionics which are ably maintained by our engineers and technicians. There can be little doubt that INS Hansa today is a front line unit and a vital link in the nations maritime defence.


The Air Department is responsible for the safe and efficient conduct of training and operational flying of all air units based at INS Hansa. It constitutes the following sub-departments:-

Air Traffic Control

The Air Traffic Control provides services to all military and civil flights operating from this airfield including International Flights. This Airfield is equipped with the latest radio, navigational aids viz ILS, DVOR, NDB, PAR, VASI, PAPI, and surveillance radar for conduct of flying during day, night and bad weather. The ATC is also equipped with the latest type of crash fire tenders for rescue and fire fighting operations.

Aircraft Direction Room

The Aircraft Direction Room (ADR) was set up in 1973 by Lt Cdr HPN Singh the first officer-in-charge of ADR. The ADR is equipped with Radar ATCR - 22, IFF Mark-X and STAR 2000. The ATCR-22 and IFF Mk-X are likely to be replaced with new 3D ARSR and IFF Mk XI radar. The role of ADR is to provide Radar cover for all Aircraft flying in the local flying area upto a range of 200 NM from Dabolim. In addition interception training for ab-initio fighter pilots is carried out from ADR with the help of this Radar.

Safety Equipment Section

This section provides fully serviceable safety and survival equipment to all types of Naval aircraft operating from this Air Station. It is also responsible for the training of all crew in the use of these equipment, in case of an emergency landing at sea or over land.

Photographic Section

This section is equipped with aerial, cine and ground photographic for operational/technical use and has facility of developing and printing of all types of films including construction of mosaics. It also has facility of colour films processing, printing and making of colour slides.

The White Tigers - INAS 300

INAS 300, the first carrier based Air squadron of the Indian Navy, was commissioned on 07 Jul 1960 at RNAS Brawdhy, UK under the command of Lt Cdr BD Law. In Jul 1961, the Squadron embarked Vikrant with 11 Sea Hawks, sailed for India and disembarked at Sulur on 11 Nov 61 after which it continued operating from Sulur till the Squadron shifted to Dabolim along with Hansa in Sep 1964.

The White Tigers proved their mettle in the 1961 Goa operations and 1965 Indo-Pak war. During the 1971 war with Pakistan, operating from Vikrant, they pounced time and again on enemy target in East Pakistan. The gallantry of the Squadrons was recognised by the award of one MVC, four Vir Chakras and one NM.

By 1978, time had come for the aging Sea Hawks to be laid to rest. The White Tigers were rejuvenated with the induction of the formidable Sea Harrier Fighter on 16 Dec 1983 under the command of Cdr Arun Prakash. In a relatively short span of time, these sophisticated machines have been integrated into the service and the squadron when embarked in Viraat is now in the forefront of fleet air defence.

The Cobras - INAS 310


INAS 310 was commissioned at Hyeres-St Raphel, in France on 21 Mar 1961 under the Command of Lt Cdr MK Roy. Alizes, the Anti Submarine Recce & Strike aircrafts embarked their mother INS Vikrant on her maiden cruise from the UK to India. They were initially based at Cochin & later shifted to INS Hansa, Goa in Apr 1970

The Squadron saw action in the 1961 Goa Liberation, the Indo-Pak Conflicts of 1960 and 1971 and later in Ops Pawan against the LTTE. The Cobras spot their deadly venom at the enemy and for their bravery & gallantry they were decorated with 1 MVC, 7 VrC, 9 Nau Sena Medals and 7 Mention-in-despatches.

Having served the nation with valour and pride for three glorious decades, the battle honoured Alizes bade adieu to the Indian Navy and thus paved the way for the Indian Navy's newest induction namely the Dornier 228 aircraft. The first of these state of art aircrafts were flown in on 26 Aug 91 at a solemn function held in INS Hansa.

Dornier 228, the highly versatile multipurpose light transport aircraft is manufactured at HAL under a license agreement with M/s Dornier of Germany. This highly fuel efficient, rugged, reliable aircraft with turbo prop engines, combines well proven features with advanced technologies in design and production and has been developed specifically to meet manifold requirements of utility and commuter transport. The Naval variant of the Dornier 228 aircraft has been specifically modified to meet the requirements of the air arm of the Indian Navy.

The Dorniers in the Indian Navy are carrying out multifaceted talks which include but are not limited to the following :-

(a) Maritime patrol.
(b) Air Surveillance
(c) Casualty Evacuation
(d) Search & Rescue
(e) Training
(f) Passenger/Troops/Cargo transport

With the fitment of ESM AES - 210E on one Dornier aircraft and future fitment on others along with SIMIKHA and C412 (KINO), the envisaged additional roles of the squadron are as follows :-

(a) ESM surveillance from forward bases
(b) Close and distant ASW support to fleet units.
(c) Comlink and airborne control platform at sea.

The Winged Stallions - INAS 315

The Indian navy acquired three Ilyushin 38 aircraft from the erstwhile Soviet Union and commissioned Indian Naval Air Squadron 315 on 01 Oct 1977 with Cdr BK Malik as its first Squadron Commander. With this the Navy acquired the long-range martime patrol and anti submarine capability. The IL 38 is a long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti submarine aircraft, which carries Torpedoes, Depth charges and Sonobuoys for prosecuting a submarine and Air to surface Missiles for surface attack. It has a sophisticated radar and attack computer. It is also being retrofitted with Electronic Support Measures systems.

During its service it has displayed an extremely high order of reliability. It has been deployed from various airfields in the country and abroad at a short notice. IL 38 has played a stellar role in Operation Pawan. Operation Cactus and various peacetime exercises.

The Squadron apart from being singularly responsible for evolution and formulation of MR ASW tactics of the Indian Navy has also been assigned the duties of providing search and rescue cover over international waters surrounding the Indian subcontinent. Truly over the years, this squadron has provided the country the maritime reach essential for sea control.

The squadron has also been assigned the duties of providing search and rescue cover over international maritime waters surrounding the Indian sub continent, in addition to its primary role. The IL-38 is a versatile aircraft flying regularly for long 8-9 hours sorties as a matter of routine, guarding the Indian territorial waters and also collecting information and intelligence.

The Phantoms - INAS 551 'A'

The squadron which was set up in Sep 1957 at Sulur existed as Naval Jet Flight (NJF) with four Vampire aircraft. Lt Cdr BD law was the first flight Commander. The Squadron shifted to INS Hansa on 23 May 1964, and was re-christened as INAS 551. It began training on the Sea Hawk (ex INAS 300) in 1966. With the commissioning of Sea Harrier Operational Flying Unit (SHOFTU) in 1990, the original INAS 551 became INAS 551'A'. Dilution of the Sea Hawk holding and phasing out of the Vampire commenced in 1971 and was completed by 1976. Meanwhile induction of Kiran HJT-16 commenced in 1971, which were augmented with the armed version the Kiran MK IA by 1978. The Kiran MK II, an improved version of the Kiran, which has a superior avionics fit and additional weapons payload, was inducted next by mid 1987.

The squadron is conducting training for pilots of the fighter stream of the Indian Navy. The squadron also plays a key role in providing flying experience to the Naval and Coast Guard QFI's before they proceed for the FIS training with the Air Force. The squadron has an important role to meet the training requirement of both the fleets. In addition, training of Direction Officers in interception exercises is also taken up by this squadron.

Presently the squadron operates Kiran Mk I/IA and Kiran Mk II aircraft concurrently.

The Home Of Teething Tigers - INAS 551 'B'

The "Cradle of Sea Harrier Pilots" Indian Naval Air Squadron 551 `B' was commissioned on 16 Apr 90 as Sea Harrier Operational Flying Training Unit (SHOFTU) known to one and all as the "Teething Tigers". With the commissioning of INAS 551`B' the conversion and operational training of Sea Harrier pilots shifted from United Kingdom to India at INS Hansa. The squadron carries out the following functions:

(a) Conversion of MIG - 21 qualified pilots to Harrier and develop them to Day Operational standard.
(b) Refamiliarisation syllabus of pilots joining flying duties after a break in flying.
(c) Instrument flying sorties towards instrument rating of Harrier aircrews.
(d) Competent-to-Instruct course on Sea Harrier for Qualified Flying Instructors.
(e) Night dual checks for Sea Harrier pilots and other dual checks as required.
(f) On-Job-Training for technical personnel of the Sea Harrier Stream.

For meeting these diverse tasks the squadron has one Harrier trainer and three fighters and is haused in the erstwhile 310 squadron hanger which its shares with 321-flight.

The Eagles - INAS 339

INAS 339 was commissioned by Vice Admiral SK Jain PVSM, AVSM, NM on 23 Nov 1990, at INS Kunjali, Mumbai. Cdr SV Purohit was the commissioning Squadron Commander. The squadron initially operated Seaking helicopters but later changed over to Kamov 28s in Mar 1993. The squadron was later shifted to INS Hansa. The unique antisubmarine helicopter with two co-axial contra-rotating rotors is a potent ASW Platform capable of independent search and destruction of enemy submarines. The aircraft is equipped with powerful radar and also dipping sonar for locating enemy ships and submarines and carries a variety of bombs and torpedoes to carry out an attack. Since its inception, this aircraft has proved to be extremely reliable and effective in its role as the "Scourge of the Sharks".

The latest addition to the squadron is the KA-31, which is an Airborne Early Warning Carrier System (AEWCS). With the latest radar it can identify low flying targets both in air as well as on ground. This will give the suadron the status of the Navy's 'Eyes in the Skies'.

The primary role of the squadron is to train both pilots and observers of both types of aircraft. The training curriculum is exhaustive covering both flying and ground training and when these aircrew leave the squadron on completion of their training they are fully qualified to undertake their duties in operational billets on ship borne flights.

The Angels - 321 Flight

INAS 321 was commissioned as the first Helicopter Squadron of the Indian Navy on 15 Mar 1969 at INS Hansa by Admiral AK Chatterji. Lt Cdr V Ravindranath was the first Squadron Commander. The first two Alouette III helicopters were received in crates at Bombay and assembled as IN 131 and IN 132 these were later renumbered as IN 401 and IN 402 in 1967.
On 01 Aug 1980 the squadron was shifted from INS Hansa to INS Kunjali at Bombay. Commander PP Sharma was appointed squadron commander.

The primary of role 321 Hansa Flight is to provide Search and Rescue cover and logistics support to the Naval Air Station. The flight also undertakes numerous communication duties. Over the years the flight has had the distinction of having evacuated casualties from not only Indian Naval Ships but also from merchant ships and also been instrumental in evacuation and rescue of persons from flood affected areas and drowning cases from the beaches of Goa. The flight has also had the privilege of flying The President of India, the Prime Minister and VVIPs/VIPs on a number of occasions.

Sea Harrier Simulator

The Sea Harrier Simulator was installed in 1984 and was updated to Batch II A/C standard in 1997. Where all the old computers were replaced with state of art Silicon Graphic computers.

The Simulator is a full motion, 6-axis based and provides entire mission simulation with dusk/night and day visuals. Ab-initio pilots have their first taste of the Harrier in the Simulator. Other operational pilots periodically fly the Simulator to remain current with the aircraft. Simulation provides pilots with situations they are normally not likely to see in the aircraft such as fire, engine failure and really bad weather. It also imparts realistic training in airborne - intercept radar and weapon handling lesser risk factor and cost. Thus the Sim, as it is fondly called, is an inseparable aspect of the entire gamut of Sea Harrier operational training.

Aircraft maintainers, eg., engine ground-runners and avionics sailors too, are trained on the Simulator with none of the risks associated with training on the real aircraft. The Simulator is a complex computer marvel and training on it gives the Sea Harrier maintainers an opportunity to master hardware and software aspects.


Executive Department

Flying is the main activity at INS Hansa, but there is a requirement to maintain an orderly and regulated environment in the air station so that those engaged in the vital functions of aviation can get on with their jobs. The Executive Department of INS Hansa is responsible for the administration, security, good order, cleanliness and routine running of the air station. In addition, seamen officers of this department also provide specialized advice to the Commanding Officer on subjects like Communication, Gunnery, and anti-submarine warfare. With the continuous growth of the air station, the demands on this department have been increasing rapidly. Whether it is providing welfare services like canteens, upholding Naval discipline on and off base, running sports activities or ensuring that the air station wears a spruce look for VIP visits, the Executive Department is omnipresent and omniscient. Keeping a benevolent but watchful eye on this community of 3000 servicemen and civilians is the Executive Departments primary objective.

Base Support Facility

Base Support Facility (G) is formed after the merging of erstwhile ALD (E) / AED (E) on 01 Aug 97. It is situated on the northern side of Hansa and headed by Officer-in-Charge, Base Support Facility (G). The department has been formed to ensure support to all squadrons operating IL 38, KA 25 and KV 28 aircraft and carryout second line inspections of these aircraft.

The main functions of this department are as follows:-

(a) 150, 300 and 900 hrs inspection of IL 38 aircraft.
(b) 100 and 200 hrs inspection of KA 25 helicopter.
(c) 100 and 200 hrs inspection of KV 28 helicopter.
(d) Minor station level modification on IL 38, KA 25 and KV 28 aircraft
(e) Repair of rotables upto second line level
(f) Providing workshop facilities to NAY (G) for life extension/overhaul of radio items.
(g) Technical support to outside agencies.
(h) All levels of maintenance and repair of ASW complex of IL 38, KA 25 and KV 28 aircraft.
(i) Providing support to ship borne helos in terms of DI/DR for complex defects beyond flight's capacity.
Air Engineering Department
The Air Engineering Department is committed to maintain the squadron aircraft in their highest state of operational readiness by providing them vital technical, general engineering, specialist workshops and quality inspection Support. This department also undertakes the major servicing of Sea Harrier aircraft, the only VSTOL Jet fighter being operated by Indian armed forces and the basic Jet trainer Kiran aircraft. In additional structural repairs of Sea Harriers, Chetak and Dornier aircrafts are also undertaken.

This department also undertakes following activities:-

(a) Inspection of aircraft and engine components using latest Non Destructive Techniques i.e, X-ray, magnaflux, ultra sound and eddy current.
(b) Manufacture/Repair of aircraft components in general engineering workshops and specialist workshops.
(c) Servicing of guns, weapons, missile carriers and ejection seats in armament workshop.

The department is also responsible for the maintenance of station specialist vehicles and renders support for aircraft salvage operations.

The Pegasus engine repair shop of this department is only one of its kind in Indian Navy where in the sophisticated Pegasus engine used on Sea Harrier aircraft is undertaken for hot end change, assessment/repair Post foreign Object Damage, DI/DR and if required full strip of the engine. Senior sailors of Indian Navy who have been specially trained to perform the task exclusively man this shop.

Air Electrical Department

The Air Electrical Department headed by Station Air Electrical Officer, provides second line support in respect of Electrical and Air radio systems fitted on Western / Indian Origin Aircrafts positioned at INS Hansa. The department also provides technical expertise/assistance to other departments and visiting aircraft.

The Air Electrical Department houses the following workshops / facilities:

(a) Avionics Centre
(b) Electrical Repair Shop
(c) Instrument Repair Shop
(d) Aircraft Generator testing facility
(e) Aircraft Battery shop
(f) Missile workshop
(g) Calibration Centre for special to Type Test Equipment (Sea Harriers)
(h) Printed Circuit Board Fault Diagnosis/Repair Shop
(j) Electronic Maintenance Room for Kiran and Chetak aircraft.

The department is capable of undertaking effective DI/DR of all Sea Harrier items and the sailors are suitably trained to meet this challenging task. It also provides assistance to frontline fault diagnosis on as required basis.

Base Electrical Department

The Base Electrical Department is the technical authority on ground electronic equipments, test equipments and associated devices.
The functional responsibility of the department is to provide uninterrupted ground Navigational aids to user of following equipment for safe flying operation of both civil and military aircrafts.

(a) Surveillance Radar ATCR-23 and IFF
(b) Instrument Landing System
(c) Precision Approach Radar
(d) Non Direction Beacon
(e) Commutated Aerial Direction Finder (CADF)
(f) V/UHF Communication Equipments
(g) Air Field Lighting System
(h) Emergency Alarm System
(j) Broadcast and Public Address System.

Logistics Department

Logistic department plays a key role in maintaining the operational readiness of INS Hansa by providing it with a wide range of efficient support services. There are 34 various departments, squadrons and additional units to which logistic support is extended. The department undertakes procurement, storage, accounting and distribution of Victualling, Clothing, Naval Stores, Motor fuel, Equipment and Spare Parts. It ensures smooth and timely disbursement of approximately Rs 1.4 Crore per month to 3,000 service and civilian personnel. The department also efficiently manages 8 Public Funds. The five galleys in the base provide tasty and nourishing food to service personnel and thus keep their morale high. In order to keep the base abreast with the world of Information Technology, the department also provides latest computer hardware and software support. The Motor Transport Pool of the department maintains 87 vehicles with a high state of serviceability to meet various commitments of the base. The department also meticulously maintains Service records of both civilian and service personnel.

Meteorology and Education Department

After the liberation of Goa, the Meteorological Office at Dabolim airfield was taken over by the Navy in 1962. With the shifting of INS Hansa from Sulur to Dabolim in 1964 the need for augmentation of meteorological facilities and their manning by Naval Personnel was felt.

Over the years, the meteorological office has kept pace with the growth and sophistication of Hansa and at present is equipped with the latest meteorological instruments/sensors like Digicora MW 15, Laser Guided Hand Held Cloud Base Measuring System, Direct Reception Antenna System (DRAS), Satellite Imagery Reception & Video Display System (SIRAVDS), Automatic Weather Observation System (AWOS), AMSS, etc. The department is manned round the clock and provides meteorological services to the service and civil flying at the air station and to the maritime operations off Goa. Incidentally, Met Office Hansa is the only forecasting office in the Goa state.

The Met/Edn Department administers a Naval Aviation Reference and Ship's Library at INS Hansa. It houses about 13,000 books of varied subjects ranging from aviation, technical, language, dictionaries, encyclopedia, fiction, general reading, computer and textbooks. About 25 magazines / journals of general reading, aviation and technical are subscribed regularly in addition to the newspapers. Text papers / question papers with solved answers of various Naval competitive examinations are also available for issue to the members. In addition to the computerization of issue/return of books an Internet browsing facility has been provided for the members of the library.

Medical Department

The physical well being of Naval personnel, their families and the civilians of INS Hansa is the prime responsibility of Medical Department. Medical Officers, specialised in Aviation medicines strive hard to maintain the extra-ordinary medical standards required of the aircrew. This cover is extended to more than 2500 naval personnel and their families. This is achieved by emphasising personal hygiene, inspection of galleys and regular medical check-ups.

The department is fully equipped with the latest medical instruments to take care of any emergency. It plays a major role in keeping the aircrew battle worthy

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Published on: 2006-05-25 (12241 reads)

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