'MMRCA trials need to be challenging'

'MMRCA trials need to be challenging'

Lockheed is one of the six contenders in contention, to supply 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to the Indian Air Force (IAF). Their trials were completed over the weekend.

Now, a F16IN instructor/evaluation pilot, Hedges spoke to Deccan Herald and shared his experiences on participating in the flight evaluation trials. “I loved flying the F16 in the sky above the Western Ghats. It was an awesome experience. One lesson that was new to us was ‘Bird Avoidance’. You do have a lot of birds in India, don’t you” said Hedges, who swears that flying fighter aircraft is not just a skill but an intellect and requires a situation of awareness and swift reflexes. “You need to be a smart pilot and bring down the enemy, before you are brought down,” he says.

Hailing from a family of pilots, Hedges has over 2,000 hours of flying experience over a period of 21 years, flown a variety of fighter jets and has taken part in the legendary ‘Operation Desert Storm’ or the Gulf War of 1990’s undertaken by a coalition led by the US to free Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

The Lockheed team that had brought in three F16’s from the airbase in United Arab Emirates (UAE) completed their leg of the MMRCA trials that were conducted in humid conditions at Bangalore, desert conditions in Jaisalmer and high altitude cold-weather conditions in Leh, over a period of 14 days.

Hedges has also spent three-and-a-half years in the Jordanian Air Force as an instructor and recalled the war in the Persian Gulf. “I was posted in Turkey on the northern side and had to fly sorties in low-altitude to protect the Kurds in the no-fly zone. Though my first visit to India, I love spicy Indian food that I have been eating for 20 years. Our stay in Bangalore was enjoyable,” he said.

On advice to young fighter pilots, Hedges signed off saying, “A superior pilot uses superior intellect so that he does not have to use superior skill.”

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