By Dr M.S. Patil, PRO (Bangalore), MoD
The Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) in Bangalore is a unique organisation of the Indian Air Force (IAF). It symbolizes the synergy of technical knowledge and training in producing eminent Test pilots and engineers for the armed forces of the country.
ASTE was formed as a small Aircraft Testing Unit in 1948 at Kanpur and only in 1973 it moved to Bangalore after getting reorganized as ASTE. Now this has grown into a premier aircraft testing and certifying authority for the entire South Asian region. It also assist premier defence organizations like DRDO, CISR, ISRO, HAL on evaluating the aircraft through various and rigorous field trials.
Commandant of the ASTE, Air Commodore B.R. Krishna said that various aircraft like Gnat, Vampire, Mystere, Hunter, Krishak, Saunders Roe P-53C Scout Helicopter, HJT 16, Kiran, Indian variants of Aloutte Helicopter, Chetak, Cheetah, HS748 (AVRO), HF 24 Marut, AN 32, Jaguar and Mirage have been tried and tested here. Saras is being modified here after an accident in 2009, he added. He is also hopeful of Light Combat Aircraft (like Tejas) is available for user trials by the end of the year.
ASTE is also upgrading aircraft like Jaguar through many service trials while evaluating them in the field. Now it has undertaken upgradation of Sukhoi (Super 30) in the ongoing trials. It has also developed high speed cameras for its photo lab, low end electronic systems like radio altimeter, VHF Communications sets and so on.
The Air Force Test Pilots School of ASTE is one of the seven Test Pilot Schools in the world and has the distinction of being the only one in Asia. The school conducts training for Production of Test Pilots, Experimental Test Pilots and Flight Test Engineers. The Engineers on successful completion of the course are awarded an M.Tech in Flight Test Engineering. M.Sc degree is awarded to the graduating Test Pilots too from Bangalore University. The training ranges between 10 weeks to 112 weeks depending on their nature.
ASTE has a regular interaction with similar organizations in UK, France and USA in a bid to bring in the latest technology available to make India a pioneer in aircraft testing capabilities. It has a splendid museum with rare blowups of two stalwarts like Wing Commander Ravish Malhotra, brain behind such a venture and Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma who took part in Indo-Sovier Joint Space Venture was an alumini of ASTE.
As on today, it has on its hand a research project on 11 different types of aircraft with regard to their maintenance by multi systems evaluation. In recognitikon of its outstanding contribution to the IAF, on 21 Nov 2005, His Excellency Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the, President of India presented the “Presidential Standard” to ASTE.
ASTE stands at the vanguard of India’s indigenization efforts in aircraft manufacturing and will be a beacon for generations of Test Pilots and Engineers to come.
(This article is hosted on the blog without editing.)