India is all set to launch its first Shore-based Test Facility (SBTF) for flight-testing various naval fighters that would mandatorily operate from aircraft carriers.
Defence Minister A K Antony would lead a top-level delegation to Naval Air Station INS Hansa in Goa on March 1 for the inauguration of the state-of-the-art facility. The Indian SBTF is being billed as only the third such facility in the world, after the US and Ukraine one, built at a cost of around `400 crore.
An official in the Ministry of Defence confirmed to Express on Monday that the ski-jump part of the facility was fully ready and certified in 2013, after which the MiG-29K fighters have undertaken a number of take-off trials successfully. The aircraft takes off from a ramp built at 14 degrees angle, while it catches an arrester hook (that reduces the speed to zero, within 100 meters) after touchdown.
The SBTF replicates a static model of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, currently being built at the Cochin Shipyard.
“The pilot is being assisted by an optical landing system, arrester hook system and TV monitoring system. All these features are being currently used by the MiG-29Ks. The lighting system on SBTF for night operations is also ready,” the official said.
He said the primary objective of the SBTF was for certification of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) naval variant for ship-borne operations. “It is mandatory for the LCA naval variant to prove the carrier compatibility test on SBTF. Today, the facility is aiding the MiG-29K pilots, before they commence operations on INS Vikramaditya in Karwar,” he said.
The design consultancy and supply of specialised equipment for SBTF were done by the JSC Rosoboronexport, Russia. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Indian Navy, Goa Shipyard Ltd, R&D Engineers (Pune) and Chief Construction Engineer (R&D West), Pune, executed various structural and installation works.
“Once the LCA naval variants start flying at SBTF, plans are afoot to have a telemetry ground station for flight operations, to be set up by Bangalore-based National Flight Test Centre,” the official said.
The ADA sources said the naval prototype (NP-1) of LCA started flight trials regularly at HAL airport thrashing out most of the undercarriage issues.
The NP-1 is expected to start trials from SBTF by May this year.