Flew the Tejas since it's indigenously developed: Rajnath

New Delhi (IANS) Following his maiden sortie on a Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), fully dressed in a G-Suit in Bengaluru on Thursday, Rajnath Singh, who became the first Defence Minister to fly the aircraft, said he was thrilled with the flight and chose to fly since it was indigenously developed.

The aircraft was piloted by senior Indian Air Force (IAF) officer Air Vice Marshal N. Tiwari.

"I was thrilled with the flight. It was a very smooth and comfortable flight for me. I was enjoying the flight. I am proud of the scientists of the country as well as with 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," said Singh.

Singh became the first defence minister of the country to fly a Tejas aircraft.

On being asked as to why he chose the Tejas aircraft to fly, Singh said it was because the jet is "indigenously developed".

Former Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, flew in a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet of the IAF on January 17, 2008 from the Jodhpur air base in Rajasthan. She was also the first female Defence Minister to fly in a fighter jet as a "co-pilot".

Former Presidents Pratibha Patil and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam also flew in Su-30 on November 25, 2009 and June 8, 2006 from Pune when in office as THE Supreme Commander of the armed forces. Pratibha Patil was the first female President and Kalam the first President to fly in a military fighter.

Rajnath Singh undertook the sortie at 9.58 a.m. from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport in Bengaluru for a 30-minute sortie.

A senior IAF officer and a ground staff at the airport guided Rajnath Singh in taking the rear seat inside the cockpit ensuring all safety gear were in place. The Minister waved out to the crowds at the airport before the fighter jet took to the runway.

Shortly before entering the cockpit, Rajnath Singh posted photographs on Twitter. "All Set for the Day," he tweeted.

Rajnath Singh's maiden flight on the Tejas comes ahead of the IAF placing an order for 83 jets with the HAL, the manufacturer of the 4-plus generation combat aircraft.

In the first week of September, the pricing-related issue of the 83 jets, which had been hanging fire for long, had been successfully resolved by the Department of Defence Production with the HAL. The new batch of 83 jets will be in addition to the 40 aircraft that have already been ordered by the IAF.

The Tejas has been designed by India's premier defence research institute, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

On September 13, the naval version of Tejas LCA had achieved a major milestone with a successful 'arrested landing' at the shore-based Test Facility of INS Hansa in Goa. The Indian Navy had hailed September 13 as a 'golden letter day'.

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