- Nirmala Sitharaman took a 45-minute sortie on a Sukhoi-30
- The aircraft took off from the Jodhpur Air Force Station In Rajasthan
- Earlier, the minister was onboard aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya
A video from inside the Sukhoi showed the minister waving before the take-off and then the ground falling away rapidly. A Sukhoi-30 is capable of achieving a maximum speed of 2,100 km an hour --- nearly four times more than a commercial airliner.
The plane crossed the speed of Mach 1 and rose to an altitude of 8000 metres, she pointed out. "So, in a way, (it went) higher than Mount Everest and crossed the speed of sound. It just shows the excellence in our fighter pilots' training," news agency Press Trust of India quoted her as saying.
Former President Pratibha Patil was the first woman and at the 75, the oldest person to ride the fighter jet in 2009. Junior defence minister Rao Inderjit Singh, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Union minister Kiren Rijiju also belong to the elite list.
After the sortie, Ms Sitharaman said she was "very proud and thankful" for the experience. "It actually tells me with what rigor, practice, what level of readiness & how quickly they (the defence personnel) have to respond to situations," she said.
For the sortie, Ms Sitharaman wore a flight overall and a G-Suit, or anti-gravity suit, which ensures comfort when the jet takes tight turns. She also wore a helmet with an oxygen mask. The minister took the rear seat of the fighter jet, which was being piloted by Group Captain Sumit Garg. Communication was maintained through intercom.
The twin-jet fighter was developed by Russia's Sukhoi and built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the Indian Air Force.
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