India's Shore-based Test Facility (SBTF) at Goa's INS Hansa air station is a bustling facility now. After launching and trapping Russian-built MiG-29Ks for months now, it launched an LCA Navy in January, and is getting all set for a lot of activity starting March when the second LCA Navy prototype (NP2) heads to Goa to join carrier compatibility tests. There's a good chance foreign aircraft could use the facility soon too.
Indian Navy sources say the facility may be used for the first time for training of foreign pilots starting this year. The navy has also been asked if the facility can be made available for at least two exercises later this year, involving the MiG-29K and the LCA Navy NP1.
Designed by Russia's Nevskoye Design Bureau (NDB) for India's Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the SBTF is an impressive facility that launches aircraft straight out over the Arabian Sea. The facility is also crucial to how the LCA Navy shapes up as a fighter platform for aircraft carriers. The facility is split into three zones: the take-off area, which comprises the ski-jump, restraining gear (Project 11430/Vikramaditya standard by OAO RAC MiG) and light signalling system, the landing area, which has a two 90 metre wire Proletarsky Zavod Svetlana arresting gear system capable of trapping aircraft up to 20 tons, providing a maximum deceleration during trapping of less than 4.5g.
The SBTF's 57 x 16 metre ski-jump is parabolic and assembled at a 14-degree angle, constructed using steel, concrete and a 10mm steel plate on top. The ski-jump tops off at 5.71 metres at the launch point.
The TV landing control system, the FSUE TV Research Institute MTK-201EB, provides visibility of aircraft out to 6-km, monitors aircraft from an approach distance of 5-km and auto-tracks them from 4.5 km. As with most landing systems of this kind, it is programmed to measure range and deviations in approach path about 3-km before touchdown. The light signaling system is the SATURN-N, provided by Russia's LLA Aerosvet.
The crucial optical landing system (OLS), the LUNA-3E supplied by FSUE Elektropribor, is perhaps the most crucial part of the SBTF, providing non-stop visual cues to pilots on approach, to correct glide and approach paths before touchdown. The lights are visible to pilots out to 5-km at night and 3-km in daytime.
The SBTF won't have any shortage of work in the foreseeable future -- apart from the Vikramaditya, the country's first Vikrant-class indigenous aircraft carrier is also a STOBAR boat. The Indian Navy's vision on moving away from STOBAR into the realm of catapult operations won't yield anything anytime soon, though the groundwork was recently laid when India and the U.S. decided to work together and talk about EMALS technology, sparking speculation over whether the second or third ship in the Vikrant-class would be reconfigured for CATOBAR operations.