The Indian Navy has commissioned the first naval squadron to operate advanced light helicopter (ALH) MK III (MR) helicopters on the Eastern Seaboard.

The Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 324 was commissioned during a ceremony at INS Dega in Visakhapatnam, India on 4 July.

It was attended by Indian Navy Eastern Naval Command flag officer commanding-in-chief vice admiral Biswajit Dasgupta.

The Indian Navy has nicknamed INAS 324 after ‘Kestrels’, the birds of prey that have good sensory capabilities.

It signifies the role of the INAS 324 to perform integral maritime reconnaissance (MR) and search and rescue (SAR) operations.

Dasgupta said: “The commissioning of the first ALH MK III Squadron in the Eastern Naval Command will enhance the surveillance capability on the Eastern Seaboard.”

The newly commissioned squadron is commanded by ALH qualified flying instructor with extensive operational experience, commander SS Dash.

The ALH MK III or Dhruv is designed and built indigenously by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), to support the Government of India’s ‘AatmaNirbhar Bharat’ initiative.

ALH MK III is primarily deployed to perform MR and SAR operations. The helicopter is equipped with modern surveillance radar and electro-optical sensors.

It can also carry out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions as well as special operations with marine commandos.

HAL’s multi-role helicopter Dhruv has four variants including Mk I, Mk II, Mk III and Mk IV.

In March this year, the Indian Navy commissioned its second long-range maritime reconnaissance air squadron INAS 316, to operate four P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.