Defence Minister flown in a 30-minute sortie on the indigenous fighter ahead of $7B IAF contract for 83 Mk 1A variants
The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas got a big endorsement from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who was flown in the tandem cockpit of the fighter on September 19.
Singh took to Twitter to describe his experience of the 30-minute sortie from the HAL Airport at Bengaluru as "amazing and exhilarating", and lavished praise on the development and production agencies.
With the establishment solidly backing the indigenous effort, a contract worth several billion dollars is in the works for 83 LCA Mk 1A for the Indian Air Force.
While his predecessors George Fernandes and Nirmala Sitharaman were flown in a MiG-21 and Sukhoi-30MKI respectively, Singh is the first Defence Minister to fly in the indigenous LCA Tejas
Director-General Acquisitions in the Ministry of Defence Apurva Chandra had declared recently that price negotiations have been completed and talks are now on for the support package. The contract, which is expected to boost India's defence and aerospace industrial eco system, is likely to be signed by the end of this year. In November 2016, the Defence Acquisition Council had approved the procurement of 83 Mk IA variants of the Tejas at a benchmarked price of 50,025 Crore ($7 Billion), and the stage is now ripe for the order.
The Defence Minister's sortie was piloted by Air Vice Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari, the project director of the Aeronautical Development Agency's National Test Flight Centre. The Air Vice Marshal was quoted in a Ministry of Defence press release stating that Rajnath Singh "even controlled 'Tejas' in the air for some time" and that the Defence Minister was "very happy with the quality and smoothness of the aircraft".
In November 2016, the Defence Acquisition Council had approved the procurement of 83 Mk IA variants of the Tejas at a benchmarked price of 50,025 Crore ($7 Billion), and the stage is now ripe for the order
Singh donned a G suit for the sortie, and was briefed about the flight plan and the emergency procedures before takeoff. While his predecessors George Fernandes and Nirmala Sitharaman were flown in a MiG-21 and Sukhoi-30MKI respectively, Singh is the first Defence Minister to fly in the indigenous LCA Tejas.
The big emphasis on indigenisation of Defence procurements lent added significance to the Defence Minister's flight. In the works since the 1980s, the Tejas development effort finally appears to be maturing.
The ‘G-Suite’ & ‘Tejas’:— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 19, 2019
It was a memorable experience. Thank you @IAF_MCC @HALHQBLR & @DRDO_India for this proud moment.
Special thanks to AVM, N.Tiwari, who is also the Project Director, National Flight Test Centre, ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) for the sortie. pic.twitter.com/8F2tXh7dle
Flying on ‘Tejas’, an Indigenous Light Combat Aircraft from Bengaluru’s HAL Airport was an amazing and exhilarating experience.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 19, 2019
Tejas is a multi-role fighter with several critical capabilities. It is meant to strengthen India’s air defence capabilities. pic.twitter.com/jT95afb0O7
It notched another success last week, with its naval version demonstrating an arrested landing capability at Goa's Shore Based Test Facility, paving the way for attempting a landing on the deck of the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya. The Naval LCA is a technology demonstrator.
The establishment hailed Singh's Tejas sortie. "His gesture in flying on the LCA will provide a big boost to the morale of the armed forces and also to DRDO and HAL," Tweeted Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu.
"Your flight is a great motivator and a boost for indigenous design and development effort for aero-platforms ," echoed Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar.
A modest Singh responded by Tweeting that the real credit must go to the DRDO, ADA, IAF and other agencies involved in the Tejas programme. "Thanks to these agencies, today we have reached a level where we can export fighter planes across the world," he stated.
DRDO chairman Dr Satheesh Reddy and HAL CMD R Madhavan were present on the occasion along with a host of senior officials.