Bengaluru, Dec 20: India on Saturday created a slice of naval history when the first home-grown naval jet Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Naval Protytype-1 (NP-1), a trainer, took off from the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at INS Hans in Goa for the first time. As reported by OneIndia recently, the NP-1 was piloted by Cmde Jaideep Maolankar, Chief Test Pilot of National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) situated in Bengaluru.
The SBTF replicates a static model of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) being built at the Cochin Shipyard in Kerala. The aircraft undertook the ski-jump (take-off) 300 meters away from the ramp - having a curved upward shape at one end. The telemetry feed of the crucial trial was also available at NFTC, which was closely monitored by an expert team.
Sources who witnessed the NP-1 event at SBTF told OneIndia that the aircraft accelerated more than expected. "We were hoping for a 150 knot safe fly away at a climb rate of 6.4 degrees. But, the aircraft had a higher acceleration with a climb rate of around 11 degrees, which showcased the confidence of the pilot on the platform," an official said.
Naval history created, says DRDO D-G
Dr K Tamilmani, one of the visible faces of DRDO and its Director-General (Aero) told OneIndia that NP1 smooth take-off during the first attempt itself will give a huge boost to the programme. "There have been delays which are justifiable if you have tracked the programme from close quarters. We were dating complex technologies and NP-1 scripted naval history at INS Hansa," Dr Tamilmani said.
He said as part of the current campaign, NP-1 will have five more tests at SBTF (only ski-jumps) to meet all mission parameters. "Based on the test points achieved, we will schedule the next leg of trials. The aircraft will undertake ski-jumps 90 meters from the ramp, with all weapon stores in place," Dr Tamilmani added.
To a specific query, the top scientist said that the arrester-hook landing trials of NP-1 will be conducted within 6-8 months. He confirmed that the second prototype of naval LCA (NP-2) will undertake its first flight in Bengaluru soon. The NP-1 had its maiden flight on April 27, 2012.
The DRDO quoted its Chief Dr Avinash Chander in an official release saying that it hopes to see home-grown combat aircraft soon flying from the decks of Indian aircraft carriers.
Validation of the efforts by design teams: Navy
The Indian Navy is yet to officially name the aircraft and the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R K Dhowan had recently expressed concerns over the delay in the programme. The Admiral had also reviewed the project ahead of the SBTF trails.
Reacting to the NP-1's achievement on Saturday, Rear Admiral D M Sudan, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Air) told OneIndia from New Delhi that the NP-1 ski-jump is a validation of the effort of the design team.
"The launch of NP-1 from the SBTF is a historic event. It also shows the faith the Navy has reposed in this indigenous development programme. This event would provide an impetus towards timely achievement of future milestones," Rear Admiral Sudan said.
We predicted the behavior of the aircraft: ADA Chief
P S Subramanyam, Director, Aeronautical Development Agency, told OneIndia from Goa that it was a ‘text-book style' launch of NP-1 at SBTF.
"India has become only the third country in the world (after US and Ukraine) to have carried out such a launch. This technology is only available to a few nations. We were able to predict the behaviour of the aircraft during the entry on the ramp, while on the ramp and after its exit," he said.
He said Saturday's mission was a well-orchestrated one with many agencies involved. He said the NP-1 did not have an arrester hook fitted on it. "The arrester-hook landing is not a critical test as ski-jump. Today what we have achieved will be remembered for a long to come," Subramanyam said.
Our Take | OneIndia
* All the stake-holders need to be patted on their back for this
* The successful completion of the critical nature of the mission at first attempt itself should further boost the confidence of the user on the programme.
* The Navy has been backing this programme to the hilt, which gave the ADA-HAL-NFTC combine to undertake ski-jump more confidently. User support sans any conditions important for desi programmes to flourish.
* The NP-2 should join the flight-line at the earliest which should help catch-up with some of the lost time.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)