New Delhi: The Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), the top training centre of the Indian Air Force, will open doors for the private sector. The institute conducts flight testing of aircraft, airborne systems and weapons before induction into the Air Force. In addition ASTE serves as a ‘flying lab’ test system for private companies. Even if the systems being developed are not produced in India, ASTE will help private firms market their systems overseas.

Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment began its journey in 1948 as an Ordnance Testing Unit at Kanpur, formally established in 1957 as the Aircraft and Armament Testing Unit at Kanpur. It was renamed as Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment on August 23, 1972 and shifted to Bangalore in 1973 to HAL’s make-shift hangar. ASTE evaluates aircraft and systems for inclusion in user organisations. Most new types of aircraft and major avionics systems require ASTE approval to be considered fit for service in India.

ASTE is the fifth institute in the world as a Test Pilot School for the world’s fourth-largest Air Force. The institute, which has been working for the Armed Forces since its inception, is now ready to welcome the private sector including start-ups. The motive behind this is to take the ‘AtmaNirbhar’ initiative of the Government of India to greater heights. ASTE will assign the task of testing and validation of airborne and weapon systems to private industry or laboratories that come forward in terms of strategic importance to the armed forces.

An official associated with ASTE said that in recent times many defence start-ups have approached ASTE for guidance on issues related to flight testing and certification, as this institute is India’s experienced and internationally recognised flight testing authority.

Commandant Air Vice Marshal J Mishra, ASTE, said that having such an indigenous establishment within the country is a big boost to the ‘AtmaNirbhar’ initiative of the Government of India. He said that development of an avionics system involves R&D, certification and production, of which flight testing plays a very important role.

The same institute has tested Rafale fighter jets or indigenous light combat aircraft before being inducted into the IAF. The test-firing of fighter aircraft Sukhoi Su-30MKI with BrahMos supersonic cruise missile or air-to-air missile Astra has also been carried out here. In addition, the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment is also responsible for testing the beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, all aircraft and systems.