The US has offered to train Indian naval pilots in complex carrier-based operations to ready them for operating from INS Vikramaditya — formerly Admiral Gorshkov — which will reach India by 2007-08.
The offer has come as a surprise as no US hardware is on the Navy’s radar. India has no plans to immediately acquire any US naval system as the country is planning a bouquet of Russian MiG-29Ks and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) on all future floating platforms. In fact, the Air Defence Ship (ADS) being built in Kochi has been designed to operate MiG-29Ks and UK-made Sea Harriers along with the LCAs.
The US offer, sources said, was made during the recent visit of Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash. The Navy, however, has not fully finalised the module and pattern of deployment. Sources said future aviators who will operate on aircraft carriers have been shortlisted. ‘‘We have identified pilots who will fly from Gorshkov. Another generation will inherit this training by the time the ADS is ready by 2012. A training module in Russia will begin later this year or in early 2006,’’ sources said.
The pilots will be first trained from a shore-based Russian facility complete with advanced feature called ‘sea jump’. This mount, that gives any modern carrier its silhouette signature, adds to the thrust when an aircraft scrambles off. ‘‘The facility has landing strip fitted with arrestor wires. It will give our pilots real-time experience in meeting challenges posed by carrier-based operations,’’ the sources added.
The training will then shift to INS Vikramaditya by the time its refitting is done.
Confirming the US offer, Admiral Arun Prakash said the Navy was mulling over it. ‘‘We’re looking into it. But there is no talk about any aircraft procurement from US,’’ he said.