Rajnath Singh on Thursday became the first defence minister to fly in the indigenous light combat aircraft Tejas, the Hindustan Times reported.
The minister tweeted photos wearing the G-suit, a white helmet and an oxygen mask before taking off for a 30-minute sortie from the HAL airport in Bengaluru on a twin-seater version of the fighter jet, which was developed by state-run aerospace company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, NDTV reported.
Before the flight, the pilot and other top Indian Air Force officials briefed Singh. Air Vice Marshal N Tiwari was among the officers who accompanied him to the jet.
The defence minister “controlled the aircraft for sometime”, said Defence Research and Development Organisation chief Dr G Sathish Reddy.
“The flight was very smooth and comfortable,” the defence minister after the flight. “I was thrilled. I chose Tejas since it is made indigenously. Countries in South East Asia have shown interest in buying Tejas aircraft.”
On September 13, Tejas became the first aircraft in India to successfully perform an “arrested landing”, seen as a major achievement on the road to make the jets ready for induction into the Navy.
The Air Force has already inducted a batch of the indigenous fighter jets. Initially, it had asked the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for 40 Tejas aircraft but last year the Air Force issued a request for procurement of 83 more such jets at a cost of more than Rs 50,000 crore.
Rajnath Singh will attend an exhibition of products of DRDO in Bengaluru. Though he is the first defence minister to fly in a Tejas, his predecessor and current Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman flew in a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter on January 17, 2008, from Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
Former presidents Pratibha Patil and APJ Abdul Kalam also flew in Sukhoi-30 on November 25, 2009, and June 8, 2006, from Pune in western Maharashtra while in office. Kalam was the first president of India to fly in a fighter jet.
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