New Delhi: Rajnath Singh on Thursday became the first Defence Minister to fly the homemade light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas in Bengaluru. The fighter jet, a twin-seater trainer aircraft, took off from the airport of defence public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru at 9.58 AM.

“Flying was smooth and comfortable, I was enjoying it. We can now export Tejas to other countries too. I’m very thrilled, it was a very special experience in life for me”, says Rajnath after finishing 30-minute sortie in LCA Tejas.

He added, “It was very smooth&comfortable. I was enjoying. I want to congratulate HAL, DRDO and several concerned agencies. We have reached a level where we can export fighter planes across the world.”

Before taking off for the sortie, the pilots of the 45 Squadron Flying Daggers acquainted the Defence Minister with the air prowess of the home-grown fighter, its avionics, controls and radar in the glass cockpit and the weapons it carries for strike power.

Prior to the 30-minute fly, Singh took to micro-blogging site Twitter and shared two photos of him in the G-suit. He wrote, “All set for the day”.

Later in the day, the Defence Minister will also attend an exhibition of products of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

This comes nearly a week after the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) successfully carried out the first-ever ‘arrested landing’ of Tejas at a shore-based test facility in Goa.

Tejas, a fighter jet for the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been designed by the ADA and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). It belongs to the LCA programme, which began in the 1980s to replace the ageing MiG-21s. It got its official name ‘Tejas’ in 2003. The first IAF Tejas unit, called Golden Daggers, was formed on July 1, 2016.

Earlier this year, Nirmala Sitharaman, the then Defence Minister had undertaken sortie in IAF’s frontline combat jet Sukhoi-30 MKI in the western sector of Rajasthan. The country’s first woman defence minister had described the 30-minute sortie as “wonderful”.

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