As India rejoices, NLCA prototypes continue exciting sea party with INS Vikramaditya


Bengaluru: Year 2020 certainly has touched down with new horizons and hopes for India’s naval aviation with two prototypes of the Light Combat Aircraft, Navy (NLCA) strutting their stuff on board INS Vikramaditya.

The ongoing rubber-burning-carrier-campaign of NLCA, the first-ever by these two prototypes – NP-1 (trainer) and NP-2 (figher) – has generated immense interest among naval aviators across the globe.

This rare achievement of India, to make a home-grown military jet land and take-off from an aircraft carrier, has also boosted the morale of engineers, scientists, test crew, support staff and certifying agencies part of this mission.

Results key

An Indian Navy official, who is looking into the current campaign at the Directorate level, told Onmanorama that the synergy at which various teams from ADA, HAL, CEMILAC, NFTC and Indian Navy worked for the current mission has set new benchmarks.

“Certainly it has been a huge learning curve for those who are on board INS Vikramaditya for the first time. It is important for us (Indian Navy) to make other stakeholders understand the challenges of operating from a carrier. For us it has become a way of life, and for many it could be the beginning of a new course,” says the top-ranked officer.

As this piece is being put together, NP-1 and NP-2 have completed 18 cycles of landings and take-offs from INS Vikramaditya since January 11.

“They (ADA, HAL, NFTC) will have to now mine the data generated from these trials. The lessons are huge and what you derive from these matters. As a professional force, we will be looking at results and deliverables,” the officer added.

Perfect modelling

The ADA-HAL-NFTC team is elated after the successful completion of the current campaign (probably a few more days to go).

“We are happy that we were able to beat the March deadline. As per our earlier plans, we had to factor in a possible software update. However the approaches to the carrier were flawless from handling point of view (during trials before the actual arrested landing). The modelling we had done of the ship wake turned out to be very good. Hence, no software update was needed and we could the beat March deadline,” says an engineer part of the mission.

It is now confirmed that the current trails are meant only to put the platform for basic engagements.

“The target is to engage on each of the three wires. Also ship speed is being varied from maximum to minimum to check loads on aircraft and hook. This is a very systematic study to get data for design. These are not just random engagements,” he said.

With NLCA taking the social media by storm and thousands hailing India’s added might, defence observer Anshul Anand captured the mood in a tweet.

“In the history of indigenous systems, rarely has a platform gathered such positive attention. Availability rates of NP-1 & NP-2 have led to sustained murmurs in aviation circles worldwide. NLCA has arrived on the big stage,” he tweets.

(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)

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