The latest imagery acquired in May 2014 of INS Hansa, a location on India’s western coast in Goa, confirms that the Navy’s Shore Based Testing Facility (SBTF) is operational. Although India inaugurated the facility back in March, it was unknown at the time if the arresting cables had been fully installed allowing for both take-off and aircraft recovery. Satellite imagery (above) confirms cable installation and shows tire marks from MIG-29K landing. At the time of capture, seven MIG-29K were observed parked on the aircraft apron in front of three new support hangars built over the last several years.
According to the press, India’s SBTF construction was managed by the Aeronautical Development Agency and built with the help of various others including Goa Shipyard Limited, R&D Engineers (Pune) and Chief Construction Engineer (R&D West). Those companies worked under the supervision of specialists from Russia.
Much like Russia’s (reclaimed) NITKA carrier training facility in Crimea, INS Hansa sports a single ski jump take-off ramp and a new runway extension for an arrested landing strip for training Indian Navy pilots in short take-off but arrested landing (STOBAR) operations. This is different from operations on India’s current aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, which uses short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft in the form of the BAE Sea Harrier.
After mastering STOBAR, Indian Navy pilots will be able to land their MIG-29K aircraft on INS Vikramaditya, a modified Kiev class aircraft carrier based in Karwar, a location just over 40 nautical miles to the South.
In the future, India will put the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) naval variant through its paces at this facility in order to land on INS Vikrant which also features a STOBAR configuration. INS Vikrant is currently under construction at Cochin shipyard in Kerala. In the meantime, pilots flying the LCA naval prototype 1 (NP-1) reportedly started training at INS Hansa as early as May 2014, though nothing has been confirmed.
Since completing the additions at INS Hansa, India has become the world’s fourth country to setup a naval pilot program to land on aircraft carriers following the United States, Russia, and China.