Moon-lit Mission for naval LCA at SBTF in Goa I VIDEO
Bengaluru: Military minds propelling India’s naval fighter jet programme from Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) had a successful ‘Moon-lit Mission’ at INS Hansa (Goa) recently.
Officials who are part of the ongoing maiden night trials of Naval Light Combat Aircraft (NLCA), at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa, told Mathrubhumi on Wednesday that the maiden night flight of NP-2 (Naval Prototype), a fighter, was planned on a Full Moon Day.
“The first night sortie for NLCA was carried out on May 21 from the normal runway on a Full Moon Day. The Moon was shining at its best on the day when the pilot was tasked to evaluate the cockpit performance. The first night ski-jump from SBTF was carried out the next day (May 22),” an official said.
For Test Pilots world over, the Moon plays a key role during their practice night sorties, a fact well-researched and documented by Institute of Aerospace Medicine, a key wing of Indian Air Force, situated in Bengaluru.
“Night flying is a different ball game all together. And, especially for a naval platform it becomes really critical considering the challenging environment, when operating from a carrier. Light is a critical component during flight operations in night for a fighter. The pilot need to adapt to different facets of light and darkness,” says the official.
On May 21 and May 22, the Moon was at the rear of the pilots during their take-offs at INS Hansa.
“We have done another night ski-jump launch on May 24 as well,” the official said.
Disorientation fears overcome during first flight
According to officials, the Navy was initially apprehensive over disorientation issues with pilots when the aircraft went for higher Alphas.
“The ongoing campaign aims at evaluating the aircraft and also pilot familiarisation. Night flying is the phase of evaluation and clearance in the aircraft's capability that needs to be proved. Typically disorientation is largely felt at night, especially over sea and this aspect had to be evaluated. Both pilots who flew the NP-2 reported no such issues, which is significant for the programme,”
Disorientation of pilots gets accentuated during a ski jump launch at night and it is therefore essential to evaluate it early in the programme due to higher Angles of Attack at exit.
“Night flying evaluation by both pilots was carried out on May 21 to assess the cockpit prior to actual launch on the ski jump. This is a significant milestone in the programme as there were no surprises and the evaluation and launch was smooth. There are a few minor improvements possible and the same will be done progressively,” says the official.
(The writer is an author, blogger and seasoned defence journalist in India. His book ‘Precious Souls’ captures inspiring stories of special children and their families. He is currently a Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English Online) and tweets @writetake.)