240 to 0 km/h in 2.5 seconds
The Indian-made aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, today reached a milestone with the first landing of a fixed-wing aircraft after the launch of the Tejas fighter jet on its flight deck.
The indigenous fighter jet successfully took off and landed on the aircraft carrier’s flight deck during sea trials.
Speaking to NDTV, the former Tejas test pilot who led the jet’s naval variant development mission, Commodore Jaideep Maolankar (Retd.), explained the challenges of landing an aircraft fighter on an aircraft carrier.
“It’s hard to land on a small ship, everything moves, not just in one direction but in all directions. The sea was calm today, the Arabian Sea in winter is ideal, it’s almost like a lake. It’s going to be made for the fierce monsoon sea of Arabia. The small plane has to make sure it doesn’t overload any aspect,” Commodore Maolankar said.
“It’s almost like threading a needle, you have to land not just in a specific spot, but in a specific attitude to make sure no part of the plane is overloaded and at a specific speed. It’s a task to avoid several cliff edges that you can “I can’t see when you’re at speed. The back of the ship looks like a cliff and it behaves like that,” added the former test pilot.
Commodore Maolankar explained how pilots land on an aircraft carrier: “We try to maintain the speed of the jet relative to the aircraft carrier, which is set at around 130 knots or 240 km/hour.”
“In exactly 90 meters, hopefully not another meter, we try to bring the speed from 240 km/h to zero in around 2.5 seconds. It is an extremely violent thing. Once the stopper wire catches the tail hook, then you’re not going anywhere,” he added.
Pilots also face physical challenges when landing on a cockpit and decelerating from 240 km/h to 0 in 2.5 seconds.
The former test pilot said there were instances where pilots forgot to lock their harnesses and there was little blood on their feet. The plane ejects you, and for 2-3 seconds you no longer have control of your limbs.
Commodore Maolankar was part of the team that tested and designed the Tejas aircraft when it landed on India’s other aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
The 45,000 tonne INS Vikrant was built at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore and was commissioned in September last year. Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said earlier that aircraft integration with INS Vikrant will likely be achieved by May or June 2023.
In January 2020, the prototype of the naval version of the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas piloted by Commodore Maolankar successfully landed on the flight deck of INS Vikramaditya.
The achievement in 2020 placed India among a select group of nations capable of designing such a jet aircraft that can operate from an aircraft carrier.