- LCA Tejas took off for a sortie from HAL airport in Bengaluru
- In a G-suit, Rajnath Singh wore helmet and oxygen mask in the backseat
- Rajnath Singh is the first Defence Minister to fly homemade LCA Tejas
Wearing a G-suit, Rajnath Singh buckled himself into the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas in Bengaluru this morning, becoming the first Defence Minister to fly in the made-in-India fighter jet. The aircraft took off from the HAL airport in Bengaluru.
Mr Singh, 68, walked up to the aircraft along with the pilot, Air Vice Marshal N Tiwari, climbed up the steps and strapped himself in the backseat, behind the pilot. Wearing a white helmet and an oxygen mask, the Defence Minister was seen waving before the twin-seater version of Tejas took off for a 30-minute sortie. He was briefed by the pilot and other top Indian Air Force (IAF) officials.
"I was thrilled. It was a very smooth and comfortable flight. I was enjoying the flight. I am proud of the scientists of the country as well as the organisations who have worked on developing the Tejas aircraft. Today, there is a demand for Tejas in several other countries. We have reached a position in which we can not only export fighter aircraft but also other defence equipment to other countries," Mr Singh said after the sortie.
When asked why he chose to fly in the Tejas aircraft, the Defence Minister said, "It is indigenously developed".
The Defence Minister "controlled the aircraft for sometime", said Dr G Sathish Reddy, chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which has designed the Tejas jet.
After getting off the jet, Mr Singh put on a pair of aviator glasses, held his helmet under his arms and posed for photographs with the pilot, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and others.
"All set for the day," Mr Singh had tweeted earlier, sharing two photos.
All Set For The Day! pic.twitter.com/JUUdzafutq— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 19, 2019
Last week, the naval variant of the Tejas became the first aircraft in India to successfully perform an "arrested landing" in Goa, in what is being billed as a major step in the programme to make the jet ready for service with the Navy.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has already inducted a batch of Tejas aircraft. The naval version of the LCA is in development stage.
Mr Singh also attended an exhibition of products of the DRDO in Bengaluru.
Initially, the IAF had placed an order with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 40 Tejas aircraft. Last year, the IAF issued the request for proposal to HAL for the procurement of another batch of 83 Tejas at a cost of over Rs 50,000 crore.
In January this year, Nirmala Sitharaman, who was the Defence Minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's previous government, became the second Indian woman leader to go on a sortie on a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet.