Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's historic flight aboard a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas making him the first defence minister to do so is expected to boost the world defence community's confidence in this indigenous multirole fighter jet. The 20-minute sortie on a twin-seater version of the world's smallest 4th generation fighter took place from HAL Airport in Bengaluru.
Addressing reporters on the tarmac on his return flanked by Air Vice Marshal N Tiwari, who is also the Project Director, National Flight Test Centre, ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Dr Satish Reddy, an excited Singh said the aircraft was evincing interest from several countries. He said he had a smooth and comfortable flight and said the aircraft was a tribute to the skill and innovation of the country's scientists and engineers.
He tweeted: "Flying on 'Tejas', an Indigenous Light Combat Aircraft, from Bengaluru's HAL Airport was an amazing and exhilarating experience.
"Tejas is a multi-role fighter with several critical capabilities. It is meant to strengthen India's air defence capabilities."
Flying on ‘Tejas’, an Indigenous Light Combat Aircraft from Bengaluru’s HAL Airport was an amazing and exhilarating experience.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 19, 2019
Tejas is a multi-role fighter with several critical capabilities. It is meant to strengthen India’s air defence capabilities. pic.twitter.com/jT95afb0O7
Television channels showed a relaxed and confident Rajnath Singh walking up to the Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft parked on the tarmac and getting seated with the help of the IAF staff in a G-Suit. As the sleek bird slid towards the top of the takeoff run, Singh, sitting in the rear seat of the aircraft, waved merrily to those who had come to witness his flight.
In about 40 minutes, the supersonic aircraft touched down and taxied to a halt near the hangars where another LCA twin-seater jet could be seen parked. The 68-year-old Singh soon stood upon the aircraft and waved to the cheering crowd before stepping down as if it were just another day for him at work.
In a confidence boost of the makers of the aircraft designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and built by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the twin-seater naval variant of Tejas had successfully tested for arrested landing, which is necessary for operations from the Indian Navy's aircraft carriers. The delta-wing (without secondary wings or fins in the fore or aft of the primary wing) aircraft can hit a maximum supersonic speed of Mach 1.8 (1.8 times the speed of sound).
The IAF has ordered 40 Tejas Mark I aircraft including 16 single-seat aircraft in initial operational clearance configuration, 16 in final operational clearance configuration and 8 of twin-seater trainer version. The IAF's procurement of another 83 aircraft is under process and Singh's sortie is likely to help hasten a decision expected by this year-end.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while serving as the defence minister in the first stint of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, had flown a Sukhoi-30MKI (Su-30MKI) creating history.