Defence Min Rajnath Singh flies in Tejas fighter jet

Defence Min Rajnath Singh flies in Tejas fighter jet

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh prepares to fly in the Tejas fighter aircraft from the HAL airport in Bengaluru on Thursday. | DH Photo: Pushkar V

For most VIPs and government dignitaries invited to fly on an Air Force jet, the trip is little more than a joyride. Not so for Defense Minister Rajnath Singh who took control of the LCA Tejas, 13,000 feet above Bengaluru on Thursday morning. 
Air Vice-Marshal N Tiwari, who, as Project Director of the Aeronautical Development Agency’s National Flight Test Centre, took the responsibility of giving Singh on 40-minute romp over the city, explained that the minister flew the jet for about 2 minutes. 

Defence Minister kits out for flight on LCA (DH Photo)
Defence Minister kits out for the flight on LCA (DH Photo)

The sortie saw the pair reach a speed of under Mach 1, or 950 kmph as Tiwari later told DH, and saw the defence Minister endure gravity forces amounting to 2.5 gs. 
When the defence Minister alighted, following the aircraft’s return at around 11 pm, slick in an olive green-coloured flight suit, he appeared to have a “right stuff” swagger which he had lacked before takeoff.
When asked how it felt to take control of the Tejas, however, Singh was initially hesitant to answer.
“The minister did just fine,” interjected Tiwari.

 The Air Vice-Marshal explained that much of the flight involved showing off the aircraft’s avionics and weapons systems to Singh, including a laser designator pod slung under the cockpit which Tiwari said was able to designate targets at ranges of 20 to 25 kilometres.  Singh, however, proved loquacious when it came to talking about the aircraft’s role in the armed forces. 

“The development of the Tejas shows that India has developed the skill, the know-how and the ability to build its own fighters. The maturity of this fighter aircraft is such that it will not only defend India but it can also be exported to other nations,” he said, clarifying that several nations in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, had shown interest in the type. 
“Southwest Asia also,” he added.

 However, he skirted a question about whether the government would do more to support defence PSU’s in the country, including HAL, which has been plagued by a funding problem. 

Singh, who is the first defence minister to fly on a Tejas, described his two minutes of controlling the aircraft as the most memorable moment of his life. 
“The flight was smooth and comfortable,” he said, after which Tiwari explained the minister became aware that they were approaching the speed of sound only after being shown the airspeed on the gauges.
The Tejas aircraft which was used during the flight was one of four prototype trainers built by HAL.