NAS Kunjali was commissioned as a new establishment in Mumbai, post-Independence. The locale chosen for the establishment was the old Gun Carriage Basin on the sea front in Colaba, in the heart of South Bombay. The area was used during the Second World War as a depot for munitions of war and as a Boat Repair facility. With the acquisition of Allouette III helicopters in 1963, the establishment was considered suitable for a helipad. The first time a helicopter (Allouette III) operated from the base was on a temporary grass helipad, in 1964. Allouette flights thereafter continued to operate from the helipad, on a makeshift and as required basis. Finally, on 03 April 1972 ‘Bombay flight’ of the Goa-based INAS 321 was established with one Allouette III (now produced by HAL as the Chetak) helicopter, two pilots and 17 sailors. On 01 Aug 1980, one more Chetak was added to the flight and the role of the squadron was enhanced to include VIP flight commitment, Fleet Requirement task including tracking for weapon alignment, Casualty Evacuation and SAR duties. With the introduction of helicopters on board ships, the base housed and operated these helicopters, when disembarked. A Helicopter Maintenance facility was set up in 1983. Soon Sea Kings, Chetaks, Kamov and Allouettes helicopters received maintenance and back-up support, when disembarked.
Over the years, this helicopter base has grown from a small helipad to a full-fledged Air Station providing support and maintenance facilities to the integral flights of the fleet and aviation requirements of the Command. The facilities continue to expand to cater for increasing numbers of helicopters being inducted on board ships. Today, the Air Station is a fairly sizeable helodrome jutting out into the southern part of Mumbai harbour providing accommodation and maintenance facilities for Sea Kings, Kamovs and Chetaks, adding up to 17 helicopters and meeting a task of over 4000 flying hours annually.
The Naval Air Station was rechristened as INS Shikra in an impressive commissioning ceremony presided over by the Chief of Naval Staff, Adm Sureesh Mehta, AVSM, PVSM, ADC on 22 Jan 09. The Air station has been playing a dynamic role since its inception. Its primary role is to provide administrative, technical and logistic support for all squadrons and flights based in Mumbai. It additionally undertakes coastal patrol, air surveillance in the area and meets the operational flying requirements of the Western fleet.