New Delhi, Nov 25 Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook a half-an-hour sortie in the indigenously designed, developed and manufactured twin-seater Tejas on Friday, becoming the first Prime Minister ever to be airborne in a fighter aircraft.

The sortie was carried out from the Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment, Bengaluru. In the air, the capabilities of the all-weather multirole light-weight Tejas were demonstrated to the PM, the IAF said in a statement.

In the officially released photographs and videos, Modi is seen dressed in a G-suit with aviator glasses and walking up to the cockpit of the aircraft, before taking off. Another trainer Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas aircraft was also airborne to accompany the PM’s fighter jet.

The PM took to social media X to state, “Successfully completed a sortie on the Tejas.” “The experience was incredibly enriching, significantly bolstering my confidence in our country’s indigenous capabilities, and leaving me with a renewed sense of pride and optimism about our national potential.”

The IAF said it was a moment of pride for them, besides it would boost self-reliance initiatives and give recognition to India’s defence manufacturing prowess.  “With an amalgamation of contemporary concepts and technologies such as quadruplex fly-by-wire flight control, carefree manoeuvring, advanced glass cockpit, integrated digital avionics systems and advanced composite materials for the airframe, it is a state-of-the-art aircraft,” the IAF said.

The IAF test crew has been involved with the Tejas project from the conceptual stage till prototype testing. The first version of the aircraft was inducted into the IAF in 2016, enhancing the defence capabilities and preparedness of the nation. 

Safety audit identifies design and metallurgy issues in Dhruv Helicopters

The Prime Minister also reviewed the work at the Bengaluru-based Navratna defence public sector undertaking (PSU), Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, which is manufacturing the LCA and Light Combat Helicopters (LCHs), given that the state-owned company is under a tight schedule to deliver orders from the Indian Air Force. India is also trying to export the aircraft and the copters.

The government has placed a Rs 36,468-crore order with HAL for the delivery of 83 LCA Tejas Mk 1A aircraft; delivery is scheduled to begin by February 2024. More than Rs 9,000 crore has been sanctioned for the development of LCA Mk 2, an updated and more lethal version of the Tejas. Currently, two squadrons of the IAF, 45 Squadron and 18 Squadron, are fully operational with LCA Tejas.

To augment capacity and to indigenise production, transfer of technology for the manufacture of the General Electric (GE) engine in India was negotiated during the Prime Minister’s visit to the US in June 2023.