KARACHI, May 23: The target chosen by terrorists shows that they were well aware of the significance of this vital installation, Pakistan Naval Station Mehran, and its role in counter-terrorism efforts, said official sources on Monday.

They added that it was the headquarters of the naval air arm and was used by the aviation of all the three armed forces for air surveillance over the sea and to prevent any sea-borne intrusions and attacks by terrorists, especially on oil tankers.

According to the official sources, apart from anti-submarine aircraft P3C Orion, a number of modern aircraft and helicopters were parked at PNS Mehran when terrorists attacked it late on Sunday night. The sources said while two of the five fixed-wing long-haul surveillance aircraft P3C Orion parked at the facility were destroyed in the attack, Sea-kings, Alouette and Chinese-made Z9EC helicopters as well as Fokker and Atlantic aircraft remained safe.

Commissioned on Sept 26, 1975, the naval station is located in a section of Pakistan Air Force, Faisal Base, near a civilian populated area. Pakistan Navy was reportedly planning another naval base and air arm facility away from Karachi.

From this naval station, which is around 15 kilometres from the Jinnah International Airport, PN flew missions to prevent intrusions in the creek areas and to monitor any threat to maritime assets up to the Strait of Hormuz. Its missions also keep the high command well informed about threatening movement of hostile navy.

The naval air arm was raised primarily to provide early warning and maritime surveillance capability in a changing security environment in South Asia, especially due to arms build-up by India, in a post-1971 situation.

The sources said currently, PNS Mehran was serving as a very important base in counter-terrorism role of Pakistan Navy in the ongoing war on terror. The air arm included air surveillance to prevent any sea-borne intrusions and attacks by terrorists, especially on oil tankers, they added.

According to the official sources, it is the air engineering and other modern facilities at PNS Mehran that boosted Pakistan Navy’s role in the coalition task force operations at sea. The task force conducts maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean.

When the naval station was commissioned it had only eight officers, four sailors and no aircraft. While Sea-king helicopters had been provided to Pakistan Navy by then, they were still in England.

PNS Mehran, since its inceptions, is efficiently supporting day and night operational activities of all the squadrons.

The air engineering department of navy was established at PNS Mehran in the mid-1970s with the assistance of Pakistan Army and Air Force. The air engineering department, backed by rudimentary workshop facilities, began with limited first-line maintenance of aircraft. Over the year, its capability has been enhanced to undertake overhaul and rebuilding of most assets.

The functions of the air engineering department encompass diverse maintenance activities that range in sophistication and depth. The repair and maintenance work varies from basic inspections to complete stripping and rebuilding of aircraft. The department provides technical advice and assistance to squadrons; extend second- and third-level maintenance support and undertake complete stripping, inspection, refurbishment and rebuild of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft; conduct third- and fourth-level maintenance on aircraft equipment. It also designs, embodies aircraft and equipment besides undertaking aircraft structural repairs.

At PNS Mehran, training of air and ground crew is also conducted and monitored.

Apart from war operations, the naval air arm also takes part in search and rescue, casualty evacuation and relief operations in calamities.