As the demand for pilots in the Navy is set to rise in the coming years, Indian Navy will send its first batch of pilots to a civil aviation training institute in Uttar Pradesh to find out if the centre, which is training commercial pilots for close to two decades, is good enough for the men in service uniform.
The first batch of 20 officers will begin their six-month long basic flight training course at Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) at Rae Bareli on May 27. The rookie pilots will take off in DA-40 aircraft from a runaway at Fursutganj.
Till now, the Navy was sending its would-be aviators to the Indian Air Force flight training institutes for basic training after which they were given advanced training in Kiran jet trainer at the naval aviation base in Goa.
But with Kirans set to retire in a year or two, the Navy is getting 17 Hawk advanced jet trainers, which will be stationed at Visakhapatnam (INS Dega). The first Hawk is expected to arrive in July, 2013 and the first batch of advanced flight training will commence from January. For a short time, the trainee pilots will fly both Kirans and Hawks before graduating to carrier-borne fighters like MiG-29K and Sea Harriers.
Once Kirans are phased out by 2014, Hawks will be the sole platform for advanced fighter training for naval operators just like the air force. “Because of the shortage of Kiran aircraft, we were sending our pilots to the USA since the last one and half years where they flew T45-Goshawk aircraft, a variant of Hawk. Subsequently they undertook qualification tests for being able to fly from an aircraft carrier,” a seasoned naval aviator told Deccan Herald.
With a number of inductions in the pipeline, the Navy requires at least 300 more pilots – a 50 per cent jump from the current strength of 600 pilots. The first long-range surveillance aircraft – P8I – arrived on Wednesday. Two more P8I will come later this year and the remaining five will join by 2015. India is negotiating the price of another four of this aircraft with the USA as a follow-on order. The Navy has also received four additional MiG-29K fighters that will be a part of the second naval fighter squadron at Visakhapatnam.
In the next decade, the Navy plans to double its number of platforms creating a “mini-force” with close to 400 fighters, surveillance planes and helicopters.
The first batch of 60 BTech officers will pass out of the Naval Academy, Ezhimala on May 25 filling up key vacancies in technical branches.
The academy will offer BTech degrees to those who entered after 12th standard and MSc (telecommunication) degree to those who will join the naval academy after spending three years at National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla.