Bengaluru: Like Indian air warriors, defence minister Rajnath Singh jockeyed with the controls of the Made-in-India 'Tejas' combat jet during a 30-minute sortie with the aircraft cruising almost at supersonic speed over the skies of Bengaluru and neighbouring towns in Tamil Nadu, to prop the morale of defence engineers and scientists involved in its design and manufacture, and the Indian Air Foce (IAF), on Thursday.
The first defence minister to fly onboard 'Tejas', 68 year-old Mr Singh showed no signs of exhaustion, but rather extremely thrilled with the feat. "This is an indigenous aircraft, so it came naturally to me to fly the 'Tejas. I wanted to know the conditions under which our pilots fly the aircraft, and I salute their valour. I am proud of this product of the scientists of DRDO, ADA, and HAL, and I congratulate them on the superior skills. It is one of the most memorable moment of my life," he told the media after the sortie.
Commenting on the sortie, he said he took over the controls for a couple of minutes following the instructions of Air Vice Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari, the pilot, and even chatting with the latter about his career in the IAF and enquiring about his family.
The pods help illuminate ground targets located 20-25 km away to help pilots carry out air-to-ground strikes and return to respective air bases. The pilot pulled about 2.5 G or two-and-half times gravity, but Mr Singh said he felt comfortable through the sortie. Air Vice Marshal Tiwari heads the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) at Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the nodal entity for design and development of ‘Tejas’.
The defence minister said he is confident that the armed forces will be able to decimate adversaries in the event of a war because of the technological expertise of Indian designers and scientists. “Today, I am convinced that we not only have the skill and ability to design and make fighter aircraft for the IAF but for the entire world,” he added.
Mr Singh was shown some videos of previous sorties and handed a few tips by IAF pilots before he set out in a ‘G’ suit and was strapped in the cockpit of the trainer variant of ‘Tejas’.
Dr Sateesh Reddy, Chairman, DRDO, Mr R. Madhavan, Chairman, HAL, Dr Tessy Thomas, Director General (Aero systems), Dr Girish Deodhare, Director, ADA, and a host of engineers and scientists of ADA and HAL witnessed Mr Singh’s flight onboard ‘Tejas’.” HAL has completed the initial order of 16 ‘Tejas’ combat jets out of the 40 sought by the IAF. The government has approved another 83 ‘Tejas’ combat aircraft worth `50,000 crores. Price negotiations are underway between the IAF and HAL for this mega order which will be executed with significant participation by the private sector. In 2016, the IAF inducted ‘Tejas’ into No. 45 squadron ‘Flying Daggers’. These military jets have been deployed in Sulur, Tamil Nadu.