The Indian Naval Aviation, carrier-borne aircraft development program LCA (Navy) got an adrenaline shot in the arm on 07 February 2015. The first LCA (Navy) Fighter, Naval Prototype (NP2) made its maiden flight from HAL, Bangalore airport at 1227 hrs for 35 min.
The flight was piloted by Captain Shivnath Dahiya, who is an experienced Test Pilot from Indian Navy with the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC). The launch was accomplished under telemetry control exercised by Test Director Commander J D Raturi and Safety Pilot Commodore J A Maolankar, the Chief Test Pilot of NFTC.
The chase aircraft cover was provided by LSP2 piloted by Gp. Capt. Suneet Krishna (Retd) with the Test Director being Gp. Capt Prabhu and the Safety Pilot being Gp. Capt. RR Tyagi.
The event marks the growth of indigenous LCA (Navy) program, aimed to achieve Carrier Compatibility technology demonstration including arrested landing and Ski-Jump take off, initially from the Shore Based test facility, Goa.
The first flight profile was stitched together to enable a comprehensive look at aircraft systems and probe known areas of the flight envelope. The aircraft achieved all the planned flight test activity.
The performance of the aircraft in its maiden flight was flawless and executed professionally by National Flight Test Centre, headed by Project Director Air Commodore J Chalapati.
NP 2 maiden launch marks the culmination of relentless design and build effort by several participating agencies. The focus and effort of HAL, ARDC under the aegis of Mr P S Roy, Executive Director is noteworthy. The LCA Navy Programme has been ably and whole-heartedly supported by Mr. Suvarna Raju, the new Chairman of HAL. He lauded the efforts of Engineers of Aircraft Research and Design Centre of HAL for the complex landing gear design, which is significantly different from the Airforce version.
The design teams guided by Programme Director ADA Mr P S Subramanyam have ensured that systems meet the stringent requirements of Carrier borne aircraft. The teams were ably supported by the Certification agency, CEMILAC and the Quality Assurance agency, CRI (LCA), Indian Navy, DRDO agencies, CSIR agencies (NAL & CSIO), other Public and Private Sector participants.
The ADA LCA (Navy) Programme Office, under Cmde C D Balaji (Retd) is exhilarated by the addition of NP 2 as a Flight Test platform. NP 2 has been built with vision and foresight. It addresses several systemic deficiencies observed whilst making progress on flight test of Naval Prototype 1.
It incorporates most avionic hardware components promised to the customer, Indian Navy. During design and build NP 2 has been customized (Plug & Play) to incrementally accept modifications for Carrier Landing aids like Levcon Air Data Computer, Auto-throttle, external and internal Angle of Attack lights.
NP 2 is the lead aircraft for arrestor hook integration, Derby Beyond Visual Range missile and tactical data link. The small but dedicated team of LCA Navy Programme at ADA under Mr. P Thangavel and Cdr Sukesh Nagraj (Retd) and their HAL counterparts Vijay have a challenging task ahead to realise this vision with targeted, sequenced upgrade for maximum aircraft objective achievement and flight line availability.
The inclusion of NP 2 into the LCA (Navy) flight test stable is a significant milestone in the indigenous carrier-borne aircraft development program.
The earlier Naval Prototype aircraft NP1 is a trainer configuration and had done the momentous ski jump launch on 20 Dec 2014 at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at Goa. India is only the third country in the world that has this kind of test facility and sixth to design an aircraft for aircraft carrier operations.
The flight was witnessed by a number of personnel of the LCA Navy team from various agencies with gusto and enthusiasm.
The successful maiden flight of NP 2 is a testimony to the tremendous efforts put in by Scientists and Engineers to enable flight of the first LCA Naval Fighter.
With one Trainer and Fighter in its stable it can be stated “The indigenous Carrier Borne Fighter program is making headway & acquiring momentum.”