Bengaluru: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh virtually stole the hearts of hundreds who had gathered inside Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL)’s LCA Division here on Thursday.
He was calm and composed as he walked towards the waiting LCA Tejas Trainer (PV6) along with the pilot Air Vice Marshal Narmadeshwar Tiwari, Project Director (Flight Test), National Flight Test Centre (NFTC).
Ahead of his maiden flight on Tejas, he was briefed by a team from NFTC for almost 20 minutes. As part of the safety briefings, he was shown the controls and the cockpit so as to familiarize him with the aircraft.
In the flying G-suit, holding a helmet and wearing aviator shades, Rajnath Singh resembled a senior fighter pilot.
He was seen waving at the cheering crowed before flying into the history books.
As reported by Onmanorama, Rajnath Singh became the first Indian politician and first Indian Defence Minister to co-pilot a Tejas.
“It was a great experience. I enjoyed it. I was very thrilled to fly. I was very comfortable in the aircraft,” was the minister’s first response after touched down.
The flight that took off from HAL airport at 10am lasted for 40 minutes with the skies partly clearing up following the morning light drizzle.
“This was one of the most memorable moments of my life. It was an amazing and exhilarating experience,” Rajnath Singh said.
"I want to congratulate HAL, DRDO and several agencies behind this project. Today we are confident of even exporting these planes to other countries,” the minister added.
Pulled 2.5 G
Air Vice Marshal Tiwari said Tejas flew up to an altitude of 13,000 feet, touching speeds of close to 1 Mach and pulling up to 2.5G (which means 2.5 times the body weight).
“The defence minister had several queries up there and he enjoyed every bit of the flight. He even took control for almost five minutes and did undertake some simple manoeuvrers,” AVM Tiwari said.
He said some of the advanced avionics features of Tejas were shown to the minister including the use of various weapon modes.
“I explained to him how the LDP (Laser-Designated Pod) is used during a combat. The LDPs normally gives pinpoint accuracy to designate a target,” the veteran pilot said.
“I showed him acceleration,” he said.
DRDO Chief Dr G Satheesh Reddy said negotiations for the 83 MK1A version of the aircraft has been completed and it was a matter of time before the Ministry of Defence placed the order with HAL.
“Negotiations are almost complete,” Dr Reddy said.
Speaking to Onmanorama, Dr Reddy said today’s flight will be a huge boost to DRDO, HAL, ADA and all other stakeholders of Tejas project.
“When the defence minister himself takes the lead, it shows the confidence he has in this platform. Tejas has come a long way and it is a remarkable day for indigenous fighter jet programme in India,” Dr Reddy said.
HAL Chairman R Madhavan said that the first Final Operational Clearance version of Tejas is currently in its advanced stages of completion.
“We are hoping to have its first flight in two months,” Madhavan said.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)