The most recent was Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 324, which was formally commissioned at Indian Naval Station (INS) Dega, Visakhapatnam, on July 4 this year. The unit is the first Naval Squadron on the eastern seaboard to operate the indigenously designed and built ALH Mk III (MR) helicopters.
INAS 324 has been named ‘Kestrels’ after the birds of prey, which have good sensory capabilities in line with the envisaged role of the helicopter and the Squadron. The insignia of the squadron depicts a kestrel searching over vast blue and white waves, which signifies the integral maritime reconnaissance (MR) and search and rescue (SAR) role carried out by the squadron.
The other new ALH Mk III unit is INAS 325, which was commissioned on May 31 at INS Utkrosh, Port Blair Airport, in the strategically important Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. The unit’s helicopters had already been inducted into service on January 28. The unit is named ‘Eagle Owl’, as the keen sense of observation and tracking of this bird, along with its nocturnal prowess, exemplifies the sensors and advanced avionics of the helicopter, as well as its night-vision capabilities.
These are the second and third new squadrons commissioned to operate the ALH Mk III. The first was INAS 323 ‘Harriers’, which was established on April 19, 2021, at INS Hansa, Goa/Dabolim. In addition, several existing units have also taken delivery of ALH Mk IIIs, including INAS 321 at INS Shikra, Mumbai; INAS 321(P) at INS Parundu; INAS 322 at INS Garuda, Cochin; INAS 322 Dega Flight at INS Dega, Vishakapatnam. INAS 321 was already flying the Chetak, while INS 322 was equipped with the Dhruv Mk I.