Hats off to brave people like Abhinandan Varthaman who risk their lives to protect us and our country from enemies. Flying a third-generation MiG-21, Abhinandan successfully shot down a fourth-generation US manufactured F-16 fighter, which shows his superior fighter pilot skills. Abhinandan is a real life hero and now everyone wants to be like him and even look like him. However, being a successful fighter pilot like Abhinandan is no easy task and requires rigorous training. Indian Air Force spends around Rs 15 crore on every fighter pilot’s training, which indicates the huge amount of efforts and resources needed to create heroes like Abhinandan.
One of the most difficult parts of fighter pilot training involves developing the ability and acquiring the skills to combat G-forces. Gravitational force (G-Force) is the force exerted on human body when it is subjected to fastacceleration. Most of us experience this in a roller coaster ride, but that is just about 1G and that too for very brief moments. For fighter pilots, they have to train for managing G-forces of up to 9G. This is like 9 times your own weight, so you can imagine how that might feel. Fighter pilots experience this quite often when flying at high speeds, especially during takeoff, when taking sharp turns and doing acrobatic maneuvers.
How G-Force impacts the pilot’s body
When extreme G-forces are exerted, the blood rushes to the lower parts of the body. When this happens, supply of blood to brain is stopped, which can lead to fainting and unconsciousness. This is referred to as G-lock. In some cases, it can also lead to cardiac arrest. Now imagine what would happen if a fighter pilot becomes unconscious while flying his plane? This is why fighter pilots are trained to tackle such extreme G-forces.
G-Force training – AGSM technique
World’s most successful pilots like Abhinandan can manage G-forces of up to 9 Gs. It’s made possible through special training in a human centrifuge. A human centrifuge can create G forces that are more than that experienced by fighter pilots. The training prepares them to handle worst case scenarios. Fighterpilots are taught special techniques such as AGSM technique (Anti-Gs Training Maneuvers), whichinvolves taking deep breaths, locking the air inside their lungs, closing the glottis and epiglottis, and contracting shoulder muscles and calf muscles. All these maneuvers have to be done in a coordinated manner for combating extreme G forces. The aim is to prevent blood from moving to the lower parts of the body. Fighter pilots also wear specially designed G-suit, which also preventsblood from accumulating in lower parts of the body.
Disorientation while fast descent
In addition to G-forces, fighter pilots also experience disorientation when they descend rapidly from high altitude to low altitude. This affects the vestibular system, which controls our spatial orientation and gives us the sense of balance. When this is affected, fighter pilots experience the sensation of falling from the sky. Fighter pilots are provided with another type of special training to combat mental disorientation during fast descent.
Fighter pilots like Abhinandan have to undergo various other training and exercises before they become masters of the sky. It reveals that becoming a fighter pilot is quite tough and we should be thankful to our brave pilots who always work hard to make us proud. It’s because of people like Abhinandan that we can be safe in our homes and focus on our life and career. And if you are planning to become a fighter pilot, be ready to take on the toughest training routines known to humankind.