Bengaluru, May 24: The naval prototypes of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) - NP-1 (trainer) and NP-2 (fighter) - have begun their night flying activities for the first time from the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa in Goa.
This is virtually a back-to-back campaign for the NLCA team, considering they only finished the previous trials at the end of April. The detachment includes scientists and engineers from Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The current trials began on May 21 and are expected to continue through this week.
"The night trials are critical for the project. This is for the first time that both NP-1 and NP-2 are undertaking night operations from SBTF. Both have done extensive night trials from normal runways," says an official.
So far both platforms have carried out four sorties with the time duration ranging from 25 to 30 minutes.
"It's important that we complete these sets of trials before Monsoon sets in. Pre-Monsoon winds are favourable for undertaking the tests. We are also fine-tuning some of the parameters we have tested in April. Ahead of the current campaign, both platforms underwent some stress analysis tests in Bengaluru," says the official.
During the April campaign at SBTF, NP-2 demonstrated the fuel jettison test successfully. This is the capability to dump/jettison fuel in case of a requirement arising due to an emergency after launch of an aircraft from an aircraft carrier. The excess fuel is dumped into the ocean in a systematic manner, to reduce the weight of the aircraft.
"Typically the landing mass is much lower than the take-off mass and is a feature required on all naval aircraft operating from a ship. Ahead of this, we have undertaken extensive design and simulation tests. A Sea Harrier (now decommissioned) was the chase aircraft capturing the event," says the official.
Radar and data link too tested
In the last campaign, preliminary evaluation of air-to-sea mode of the radar was carried out to gather data. The data link (only on naval version) evaluation was carried out with the Sea Harrier in flight. Sea Harrier also had the same data link of NLCA.
"Other test points required to gather data at sea level were the parametric identification (PIDs) sorties with LEVCON (Leading Edge Vortex Controller) deflected to minus-30 degrees. The flutter test (vibration) points were also captured," says the official.
Hot refueling routinely carried out in Goa
The hot-refueling concept, widely tested in Bengaluru, was continuously been carried out in Goa on NP-2. This is an activity wherein the aircraft after its sortie, instead of switching off, is refueled with the engine running and pilot in the cockpit. It then immediately takes off again.
"This is thus a game changer as the sortie productivity is enhanced. This has given two sortie worth of test point coverage in a single sortie. This is currently the only fighter aircraft in the country with this capability. We could incorporate this feature on the IAF version (Tejas) also," adds the official.
(The writer is an author, blogger and seasoned defence journalist in India. His just-launched book 'Precious Souls' captures inspiring stories of special children and their families. He is the Consulting Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)