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Rajnath Singh became the first Defence Minister to fly in the indigenously built Tejas fighter aircraft on Thursday. The 30-minute sortie in the multi-role Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), from HAL airport in Bengaluru, was piloted by Air Vice-Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari.
“Thrilling and special” is how Singh described his experience of flying the fourth-generation aircraft. He congratulated Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) for building the aircraft.
Many countries have shown an interest in Tejas, the minister said, adding that he was proud that India had achieved a level where fighter jets and other defence equipment can be exported.
Air Vice-Marshal Tiwari said that Singh, who had been briefed about Tejas by senior officers of the Air Force, controlled the aircraft for some time during the flight and was “very happy with the quality and smoothness of the aircraft”.
Later in the day, Singh addressed DRDO members at the Centre for Airborne Systems and reiterated that flying the indigenously-developed Tejas was a proud and memorable moment for him. Encouraging the efforts of scientists and technicians in the development of indigenous defence systems, Singh mentioned the successes of the ASTRA missile, the LCA Tejas and the successful utilisation of NETRA in Balakot, stating that these had restored the confidence of the country in DRDO.
Domestic content in defence manufacturing industry will reach 75 per cent by 2030, he added. At another event in Bengaluru, Singh emphasised the importance of R&D, innovation and creation of cutting-edge technologies to become self-reliant in defence production. Inaugurating the seventh edition of Engineers Conclave 2019 based on themes of ‘Defence Technology & Innovation’ and ‘Transformation of Rural India Using Digital Technologies’, Singh said the Indian defence industry had not reached its full potential in the past and this led to overwhelming dependence on imported arms.
“It is well said that when nations go to war, the one with the best technology is most likely to win,” said Singh, adding that developing critical and cutting-edge technologies indigenously will make the country self-sufficient, thus saving foreign exchange which could be utilised for other development activities.