Taking a fighter to sea, ship deck different ball game: Maolankar
Bengaluru: One of India’s leading Test Pilots Commodre Jaideep Avinash Maolankar gave a glimpse of sea and ship deck operations to a select-group of scientists and engineers at National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) recently. Cmde Maolankar was the guest speaker during the National Science Day celebrations at NAL.
He spoke at length about the urgent need to break away from the shore-based mindset, that’s probably hampering the pace of home-grown naval fighter jet programme.
“We are committed to carrier-based operations. Ignoring the problem is not an option. We need to design airplanes that can survive sea and ship deck for 30 years. We have more aircraft carriers joining the fleet and more fighters are needed (in addition to MiG-29 K),” the ace Test Pilot said.
He said the resources devoted to naval flight operations needs to be increased and the Navy fighter jet programme has to be a stand-alone one.
“We need to buck the trend. You cannot have an Indian Air Force (IAF) programme linked to a naval one. There are lots of complexities while operating from an aircraft carrier. Carrier deck operations are always an armament officer’s nightmare,” he said.
He said a number of aspects need to be factored in while operating from a ship deck, including EMI/EMC interferences and landing gear rebound among many others.
“Navy pilots will have to think differently when coming back to landing. It will be great achievement when NLCA begins its carrier operations,” he said.
The Bahrain experience
He spoke about the media hype ahead of the recently-concluded Bahrain International Air Show (BIAS2016).
“There were lots of talks about Thunder (Pak) vs the Wonder (Tejas). It was more than comparisons to us. Air shows are not about aerobatics. It is more than what’s being generally perceived,” Comde Maolankar said. He said the Tejas’ performance at Bahrain boosted the morale of the team.
NAL Director Shyam Chetty backed the pilot’s views and said naval LCA should not be seen as another variant of LCA Tejas.
“The naval programme is much more complex than the IAF one. NAL has contributed immensely for the Tejas programme and we are playing an active role for NLCA project as well. It’s important that we are aware of the ConOps (Concept of Operations), especially from a ship deck,” Shaym said.