Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat became the first Chief of Staff of the Indian Army to fly the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) following a sortie over Bengaluru skies during the ongoing Aero India show.
The General took the rear seat in the two-seat fighter jet which took off at around 12.30 pm. Before taking off, the General waved at the media persons covering the event.
“For me it was a wonderful experience to have got the opportunity to fly inside the LCA,” the General said after completing the sortie that lasted for around 30 minutes.
The Army chief was flown by Air Vice Marshal Tiwari.
“From whatever I could witness, the avionics are very good. I could also see the manner in which the pilot was carrying out the targetting both in radar and other modes,” he added.
The Army chief praised Tejas and said that the fighter jet will surely increase India’s air power.
Besides highest-ranking military officials of India, Tejas has been previously flown by some of the highest-ranking military officials of foreign nations.
Chief of the Air Staff of the United States, General David L Goldfein, was the first highest-ranking officer of any foreign military force in the world to have flow a Tejas when he flew a sortie at Air Force Station Jodhpur on 3 February 2018.
Four days later, the chief of the French Air Force, General André Lanata, flew a sortie in the Tejas at the same air force station becoming the second highest-ranking officer of a foreign military power to fly the indigenously-developed fighter aircraft.
IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, had flown the Tejas on the first day of Aero India 2017.
General Rawat’s sortie came a day after the LCA Tejas MK I got the Final Operational Clearance (FOC). The FOC Certificate and Release to Service Document (RSD) were handed over to the IAF chief on Wednesday in the Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited R Madhavan.
ACM Dhanoa called the development “a major milestone for the LCA”.
The FOC now enables the Tejas to add capabilities such as Beyond Visual Range Missile capabilities. Air-to-Air Refuelling, Air-to-Ground FOC earmarked weapons and general flight envelope expansion.
Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) of the aircraft took place in the year 2013 and IOC standard Aircraft were inducted into IAF No. 45 Squadron in July 2016. The IAF Squadron has since flown over 1500 sorties successfully on the Aircraft.
The Tejas light combat aircraft is designed to enhance the Indian Air Force’s fighting capability and replace the existing squadrons of ageing MiG-21s and MiG-27s.
The 12th edition of Aero India 2019, the biennial International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition, will be held from 20 to 24 February 2019 at Yelahanka.