The chief of the French Air Force, General André Lanata, flew a sortie in a Tejas fighter aircraft from the Air Force Station Jodhpur on Wednesday, 7 February. General Lanata is the second head of any foreign military power in the world to have flown India’s indigenously developed fighter.
Four days ago, on 3 February, US Air Force chief General David L Goldfein became the first head of any foreign military power to fly a sortie in the Tejas.
General Lanata, who arrived in India on 4 February, took the rear seat of the two-seater fighter jet as it soared into the skies over the historic city in Rajasthan, which is at a distance of approximately 200 kilometers as the crow flies from the Pakistani border.
In a tweet, the Indian Air Force announced that the General, who is on a goodwill visit to India, flew the single-engine fighter. Air vice-Marshal AP Singh was the co-pilot of the fighter.
General Lanata, 56, has been the chief of staff of the French Air Force since 21 September 2015. He is a decorated fighter pilot who participated in Gulf War, the Bosnian War and the Kosovo War.
On 5 February, the chief of staff of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa met General Lanata and the French delegation in New Delhi.
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.
IAF inducted the Tejas in July 2016. In December 2017, the IAF issued a Request for Information (RFI) for 83 twin-engine Tejas MK-1A.
India will be receiving 36 Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft from France in the six years starting 2019.