Following his 30-minute sortie in Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, in Bengaluru, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, fully dressed in a G-Suit, on Thursday said he “enjoyed” the flight and that it was “smooth and comfortable”.

Singh has become the first Defence Minister to fly in the indigenous LCA Tejas.

He said he was thrilled with the flight and chose to fly since it was indigenously developed.

Rajnath Singh also congratulated the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), DRDO and several concerned agencies for the remarkable feat saying, “We have reached a level where we can export fighter planes across the world”.

“I was thrilled with the flight. It was a very smooth and comfortable flight for me. I was enjoying the flight. I am proud of the scientists of the country as well as with organisations who have worked on developing the Tejas aircraft. Today, there is a demand for Tejas in several other countries. We have reached a position in which we can not only export fighter aircraft but also other defence equipment to other countries,” said Singh.

DRDO Chief Dr G Satheesh Reddy said that the Defence Minister “controlled and flew the Tejas for some time”.

“There was absolutely no problem. I did as the Air Vice Marshal N Tiwari directed,” Rajnath Singh told reporters.

Project Director, National Flight Test Centre, ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency), Air Vice Marshal N Tiwari said that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was very happy with the flying quality of the aircraft. “We went close to Mach 1, the speed of sound,” he said.

Singh, who became the first Defence Minister of the country to fly in a Tejas, took to the cockpit of the fighter jet with a pilot in the front seat.

The fighter jet, a twin-seater trainer aircraft, took off from the airport of defence public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru for a 30-minute sortie at 9.58 am.

A senior IAF officer and a ground staff at the airport guided Rajnath in taking the rear seat inside the cockpit ensuring all safety gear were in place. Singh waved out to the crowds at the Karnataka airport before the fighter jet took to the runway.

Shortly before entering the cockpit, Rajnath posted his photographs dressed in a G-suit on Twitter. “All Set for the Day,” he tweeted. On Wednesday, Singh had left for Bengaluru to participate in the programme that has been jointly organised by the HAL and the DRDO.

Singh’s maiden flight on the Tejas comes ahead of the Indian Air Force (IAF) placing an order for 83 jets with the HAL, the manufacturer of the 4-plus generation combat aircraft.

In the first week of September, the pricing-related issue of the 83 jets, which had been hanging fire for long, had been successfully resolved by the Department of Defence Production with the HAL.

The new batch of 83 jets will be in addition to the 40 aircraft that have already been ordered by the IAF.

The Tejas has been designed by India’s premier defence research institute, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

On September 13, the naval version of Tejas LCA had achieved a major milestone with a successful “arrested landing” at the shore-based Test Facility of INS Hansa in Goa. The Indian Navy had hailed September 13 as a “golden letter day” in its history.

After the sortie, Singh also inspected the various aircraft at HAL airport.

Former Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, flew in a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet of the IAF on January 17, 2008, from the Jodhpur airbase in Rajasthan. She was also the first female Defence Minister to fly in a fighter jet as a “co-pilot”.

Former Presidents Pratibha Patil and APJ Abdul Kalam also flew in Su-30 on November 25, 2009, and June 8, 2006, from Pune when in office as THE Supreme Commander of the armed forces. Pratibha Patil was the first female President and Kalam the first President to fly in a military fighter.