Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a first-hand feel of the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas as he took a sortie in the trainer version of the aircraft on November 25.
Mr. Modi became the first Prime Minister to fly in a fighter aircraft as he went on sortie which lasted for 30 minutes.
Attired in a G-suit, PM Modi was aboard an aircraft flown by Group Captain Debanjan Mandal. The sortie was carried out from the Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment, Bengaluru. During the 30-minute sortie, capabilities of fighter aircraft Tejas were demonstrated to the prime minister.
“Successfully completed a sortie on the Tejas. The experience was incredibly enriching, significantly bolstering my confidence in our country’s indigenous capabilities, and leaving me with a renewed sense of pride and optimism about our national potential,” Mr. Modi posted on X (formerly Twitter).
“A flight to remember! Tejas is India’s pride, a manifestation of the strength and skills of 140 crore Indians,” sharing a video of the sortie Modi posted on X.
The Tejas designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and HAL has been part of the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet for over seven years. Currently the IAF operates two squadrons of the aircraft which are No 45 Squadron, the ‘Flying Daggers’ and No 18 Squadron, the ‘Flying Bullets’.
Christened Tejas in 2003, the aircraft is a multi-role platform which has been designed to undertake the Air Defence, Maritime Reconnaissance and Strike roles.
IAF has already placed an order for 83 LCA Mk-1A which will have updated avionics, as well as an Active Electronically Steered Radar, updated Electronic Warfare suite and a Beyond Visual Range missile capability.
“The new variant will be capable of firing a plethora of weapons from increased stand-off ranges. Many of these weapons will be of indigenous origin. The LCA MK-1A will see a substantial increase in the overall indigenous content of the aircraft. Contracted deliveries of the aircraft are expected to commence in February 2024,” IAF has said earlier this year.
Last month Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari had said that IAF would be going forward to procure 97 more LCAs and with this it will have 220 LCAs in its inventory.
Mr Modi’s sortie is likely to give a boost to Tejas’s procurement as the defence acquisition council is expected to give nod for procuring 97 more aircraft.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, ace badminton player PV Sindhu, and Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen are among the other civilians who have flown in the Tejas.
General David L Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, and General André Lanata, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force are among the foreign dignitaries who have also flown in the Tejas.
The IAF has showcased India’s indigenous aerospace capabilities by displaying the aircraft at various international events, including LIMA-2019 at Malaysia, Dubai Air Show-2021, Sri Lanka Air Force anniversary celebrations in 2021, Singapore Air Show- 2022 and Aero India Shows from 2017 to 2023.
Whilst it had already participated in exercises with foreign air forces domestically, Ex-Desert Flag in the United Arab Emirates in March 2023 was the Tejas’ maiden exercise on foreign soil.