Defence minister Mr Rajnath Singh flew in the LCA’s trainer as a familiarization sortie from the HAL airport in Bengaluru’s eastern suburb. Before taking off for a 30-minute sortie, the pilots of the 45 Squadron Flying Daggers acquainted the Defence Minister with the air prowess of the home-grown fighter Looking sharp in a flying suit, Mr Rajnath Singh, 68, became the first defence minister to fly in the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas in Bengaluru. Tejas is a four-and-half generation light combat aircraft developed by state-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The minister flew in the LCA’s trainer as a familiarization sortie from the HAL airport in the city’s eastern suburb. Before taking off for a 30-minute sortie, the pilots of the 45 Squadron Flying Daggers acquainted the Defence Minister with the air prowess of the home-grown fighter, its avionics, controls and radar in the glass cockpit and the weapons it carries for strike power. He was flown by a senior IAF pilot. “It was very smooth and comfortable. I was enjoying. I want to congratulate HAL, DRDO and several concerned agencies. We have reached a level where we can export fighter planes across the world,” Singh said after the flight in Goa, LCA Tejas carried out an “arrested landing”, a key performance parameter demonstrating its ability to land on board an aircraft carrier, making it a major milestone in development of the naval variant of the fighter jet. The next step would be to land on an aircraft carrier. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has already inducted a batch of Tejas aircraft. With final operational clearance (FoC), the IAF has inducted 16 weaponised LCAs into its combat fleet since June 2018 after its pilots validated its earlier version with initial operational clearance (IoC) by the military aviation regulator Cemilac here in December 2013. The naval version of LCA Tejas is also being developed. Earlier former defence minister Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman flew in a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter of the IAF on January 17, 2008 from Jodhpur air base in Rajasthan. She was also the first woman Raksha Mantri to fly in a fighter as a “co-pilot”. Former Presidents Mrs Pratibha Patil and Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam also flew in Su-30 on November 25, 2009 and June 8, 2006 from Pune in western Maharashtra when in office as Supreme Commander of the armed forces. Mrs Patil was the first woman President and Dr Kalam the first President to fly in a military fighter.