combat aircraft (MMRC) that the Indian Air Force (IAF) wants to buy, to replace its ageing MiG-21 fleet.
Rajasthan and Lehin Jammu and Kashmir next week will be to test the fighters in hotweather conditions and in high-altitude mountain ranges.
The three F-16s, which are in service with the United Arab Emirates(UAE) Air Force and stationed at Dubai air base, flew into Bangalore onSep 2, with Lockheed test pilots, US Air Force pilots and a team of engineers and technicians, for the 12-day trials.
"The fighters landed two days behind schedule due to inclementweather and operational reasons. The training phase includedfamiliarising the IAF's evaluation teams with the aircraft'scapabilities and technologies, especially its latest electronic warfareand navigational aids," Giese said.
During the training phase, the fighters were stationed at thestate-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) airport on the outskirts ofthe city. Demonstration of the aircraft, ability of its various systemsand the glass cockpit were held at the IAF's Aircraft Systems &Training Establishment (ASTE) complex, which is adjacent to the HALairstrip.
"As part of the trial preparation, all the three F-16s took to skies twice a day on hour-long sortiesdespite cloudy weather and intermittent rains Sep 3-5. They flew mostlyin south-westerly direction towards Mysore," a senior air trafficcontrol (ATC) official said on Sunday.
IAF's test pilots flew with Lockheed's test pilots in the tandemtwin-seater for a firsthand 'feel' of the aircraft and its ability tomanoeuvre for combat operations.
Though the advanced fourth generation F-16s participating in thetrials are not 'Super Viper', they are closest to the new version thecompany will offer to the IAF if it wins the estimated $10-billionorder for the 126 planes.
"The F-16IN Super Viper will be tailor-made to meet the requirementsof the IAF and will be the ultimate fourth generation fighter," Gieseclaimed.
According to Michael R. Griswold, Lockheed director, the F-16s, withfifth generation capabilities, will demonstrate to the IAF theirstriking power, speed, accuracy and its awesome 360-degree manoeuvres, with its sophisticated active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
The other five aircraft in the fray for the order are Boeing'sF/A-181N Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, the Saab Gripen, theRussian MiG-35 and the European consortium EADS Eurofighter Typhoon.
As per the global tender floated last year, the winning bidder willhave to deliver 18 aircrafts in fly-away condition, while the remaining108 will be manufactured by HAL under a technology transfer deal.
The F-16trials are taking place three weeks after Boeing flew in its two SuperHornets Aug 14 and conducted trials for about 10 days from Aug 17 inBangalore, Jaisalmer and Leh.
"Initially, the IAF pilots will co-pilot the aircraft, takingcontrols mid-air after familiarizing themselves with the systems andthe advanced navigation aids. In the subsequent trials, the IAF pilotswill take command of the aircraft for evaluating its variousparameters, including the use of weapons," a Lockheed official said.
The IAF has formed twin teams of two test pilots each for thetrials, which will be conducted in three stages: pilot familiarzsation,field trials and weapons systems trials. The third stage will beconducted in the country of manufacture.
The technical evaluation was completed early this year after the sixmanufacturers responded to the IAF's Request for Proposal (RFP) inAugust 2007.