US Air Force Chief Goldfein became the first foreign military chief to fly ‘Made In India’ light combat aircraft ‘Tejas’. It’s again a pride moment for Jodhpur that, US Air Force General David L Goldfein had flown the Made-In-India Tejas aircraft from Aapno Jodhpur airforce base. Earlier, Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman took off in the Indian Air Force’s frontline aircraft, the indigenously-built version of Sukhoi- 30 MKI fighter combat jet from the air base in Jodhpur on January 17, 2018.
With the aim to strengthen the relationship between the US and Indian air forces, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force General David L Goldfein on Saturday morning flew the ‘Made in India’ light combat aircraft Tejas at Air Force Station in Jodhpur, signalling the soaring ties between the two air forces.
The US Air Force chief was accompanied by Air Vice Marshal AP Singh as co-pilot during the 40-minute sortie in the multi-role light fighter, which is being pitched as the replacement of the ageing MiG-21 aircraft.
The Air Force tweeted, “General David L Goldfein flew a sortie in ‘Made-in-India’ LCA Tejas aircraft at the Air Force Station in Jodhpur today”.
The top-ranking US military officer, who was accompanied by General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of the US Pacific Air Force had reached India on Thursday on an official visit to deepen relations. The General met Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on Friday and discussed ways to further enhance cooperation between the two forces.
“There is already a strong relationship between our two air forces and I’m looking forward to making it stronger,” he wrote in a Facebook post shortly after being welcomed at Air Headquarters in the national capital on this Friday. “His visit was a gesture of mutual cooperation between the Indian and the US air forces, both of which are considered the best in the world,” the officials were quoted as saying by ‘Times of India’.
He also referred to the IAF’s acquisition of the C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft that is capable of lifting tanks to the border with China and Pakistan. “The IAF operates the second largest C-17 fleet in the world and continues to mature their fleet operation to support regional mobility needs,” the US Air Force Chief quoted as saying by NDTV.
Tejas, the single-engine, mutli-role fighter jet manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, that is being inducted in the Air Force in July 2016, is also seen as the biggest endorsement of the fighter that has been in the making for more than three decades.
Under development for more than three decades, the indigenous Tejas, earlier known as the Light Combat Aircraft or LCA is the first fighter jet to be built in India since the HF-24 Marut designed several decades earlier.
Severely criticised for the delays in the development of the Tejas fighter, which has belatedly shown promise as a jet far more capable than the MiG-27 and the MiG-21, legacy fighters which are in the process of retiring from the Indian Air Force.
General Goldfein is a command pilot with 4,200 flying hours. The Chief Of Staff of US Air Force has flown combat missions in operations during the Gulf War, Afghanistan and erstwhile Yugoslavia. It was during one of these missions over Serbia back in 1999 when his fighter jet was hit by a surface-to-air missile. He successfully ejected and was rescued.
In December last year, the government paved the way for the manufacture of 83 indigenous Tejas Mk-1A Light Combat aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The deal is likely to be worth close to 60,000 crores and would be among the largest ever deals the government has sanctioned for the domestic arms sector, a huge boost for the government’s ‘Make in India’ defence manufacturing programme.