How can I Become a Naval Aviator or a Navy Pilot?

January 20, 2020

How can I Become a Naval Aviator or a Navy Pilot?

Become a Naval Aviator or a Navy Pilot

Naval Aviation has always been a career to dream about. Naval Aviators are revered in the world as it is  technically a very thrilling and challenging job to take off and land on moving aircraft carriers, flying jets at supersonic speed and challenging submarines and warding off torpedoes. Naval Aviator is considered as a complete aviator being in control of all the three elements i.e. the land, sea and air. Neil Armstrong, the legendary American astronaut and the first person to walk on the moon was a naval aviator.

One can choose to become a Naval Aviator by volunteering for aviation sub specialization after completing the mandatory Sub Lieutenant’s Courses in Indian Navy. One can choose to become a

1. Pilot
2. Observer
3. Technical Officer

Selection Eligibility

  • Officer in Indian Navy
  • Completed mandatory Sub Lieutenant’s Courses in Indian Navy
  • A rigorous medical fitness test

Steps in becoming a Naval Aviator or a Navy Pilot

1.      Clearing the Pre-Flying Training at the School for Naval Airmen (SFNA), located in the Southern Naval Command at Kochi.
2.      Pilot trainees making the grade are sent for ab-initio flying training to Air Force Academy Dundigal or Indira Gandhi Rashtra Udaan Academy (IGRUA), Amethi.
3.      On successfully completing the second stage, trainee pilots are trifurcated into the fighter, fixed-wing and rotary-wing streams.
4.      The ones selected for fighters and fixed-wing continue with the Air Force Academy for further training on the Advanced Jet Trainer and Dorniers.
5.      Those selected for rotary-wing join the Helicopter Training School (HTS) at Hyderabad.
6.      Post-successful completion of their respective training stages, these pilots are appointed to Indian Naval Air Squadrons spread across the country.

Fighter Pilots Training and Deployment

A Fighter squadron includes
1.      Two MiG 29K (INAS 300 and 303)
2.      One Hawk (INAS 551) units
These squadrons are based in Goa and Visakhapatnam respectively. The MiG 29K squadron is an embarked squadron that operates both from the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and shore bases while the Hawk squadron is a pure shore-based squadron.

Steps of further in-service training

1.      All fighter pilots first join INAS 551 ie the shore based Hawk Squadron to undergo Naval Orientation Flying
2.      Selected for conversion on to MiGs in INAS 300
3.      Finally get appointed to the MiG operational squadron INAS 303.
Entire training process and the operational conversion onto MiGs is an exhaustive process that involves training in air combat roles, strike and weapon delivery profiles, air-to-air refuelling and the most challenging but Navy-intrinsic carrier landing qualifications. These naval pilots belonging to the fighter ensures an impenetrable protective umbrella around the fleet at sea, whilst simultaneously enabling long range strikes.

Fixed Wing Pilots Training and Deployment

  • The fixed wing pilots are appointed to INAS 550 for Dornier Operational Flying Training
  • After completion, a few pilots are transferred to operational Dornier squadrons (INAS 310, 311, 318). These pilots undertake the elite Information/ Electronic Warfare role, based in Goa, Visakhapatnam and Port Blair respectively.
  • The remaining pilots are posted to Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare squadrons.
  • These squadrons, viz INAS 315 and 312A, operate the IL-38 and Boeing P8I, both advanced, wide-body multi-role aircraft. The fixed-wing squadrons are the eyes and ears of the Indian Navy, continuously patrolling the skies over our extensive ocean region.

Helicopter Pilots Training and Deployment

1.      The helicopter pilots undergo training at INAS 561(HTS),
2.      On successfully graduating from HTS, these pilots are posted to Chetak units located all along the coast.
3.      Here these pilots hone their skills in fleet support, medivac, VIP as well as the critically required Search and Rescue roles, operating from a multitude of demanding environments including shore bases, large as well as small ships and even oil rigs.
4.      Once adequately experienced on the single engine Chetaks, they are slotted for conversion onto advanced multi engine helicopters like the Sea King (INAS 330 and 336), Kamov 31(INAS 339), Kamov 28 (INAS 333) and Advanced Light Helicopter (INAS 322).
These squadrons are based in Mumbai, Kochi, Goa and Visakhapatnam, but being embarked squadrons, very frequently operate from the aircraft carrier as well as destroyers and frigates.

Flying Instructors and Test Pilots

Some Pilots, having achieved a certain seniority and experience, also get the opportunity to undergo specialized courses like the Flying Instructors Course or the Experimental Test Pilots Course. There pilots are considered the cream of the flying community. Our first astronaut in space, Rakesh Sharma went on to become a Test Pilot.

Post of an Observer in Naval Aviation

What is an Observer? They form a very vital part of any multi-crew flying  mission with varying list of duties and immense responsibilities. The entire process of prosecuting a target, involving a gamut of linked tasks such as locating, gathering, analyzing and designating, remains the domain of the Naval Observer.
Training and Deployment
1. Officers who choose to join the ‘Observer’ cadre undergo training at at Observer School in Kochi.
2. Those who pass are selected for further operational training on either Sea King or Kamov helicopters, IL 38 or P8I aircraft as weapon and sensor specialists.
3. Observers after obtaining certain seniority can undergo the QNI course or specialist courses in Communications, Anti-Submarine Warfare or Gunnery.

Post of Technical Officers of the aviation specialization

Technical Officers undergo specialist training at the Naval Institute for Aviation Technology (NIAT) in Kochi.
On successfully graduating the course, they are streamed into various aircraft fleets in the Navy and appointed to respective squadrons for ‘on-type’ qualification. They are responsible for the serviceability and operational availability of aircraft at any given time. They are also responsible for all aspects of the aircraft maintenance including the power plant, advanced weapons/ sensors and critical avionics to name a few.

This article shows the various opportunities to join naval aviation one can avail of after joining Navy as an officer. Students who want to become naval aviators will have to join=n N=Indian Navy and then only can proceed to become a sea pilot. A career in Naval Aviation is tough and demanding but extremely satisfying and adventurous for those interested in making it as a career.

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Rana Pasricha

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