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Congress Potshots Overlook PM Modi’s Messaging Behind First Tejas Sortie: ‘Atmanirbharta’

Needless political nitpicking by the Congress has emerged over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first sortie in a Tejas aircraft on Saturday.

According to government sources, some in the Congress have pointed out that the late Rajiv Gandhi was a pilot, others are simply trying to take credit for the indigenous fighter jet while there are also those wondering who the prime minister was waving at when he was up in the air.

As Modi became the first Indian prime minister to fly on a fighter jet, he put out a strong message on the importance of atmanirbharta (self-reliance) in the defence sector.

Sources said the occasion, in fact, should be one to be proud of but the Congress is choosing to take potshots over it. It can be seen in the video that the PM is waving at pilots in the fighter jet accompanying his.

Prime Minister Modi’s sortie carried the message of his government’s focus on atmanirbharta in the defence sector and is part of a sustained outreach on the issue. A few months ago, President Droupadi Murmu also flew on a Sukhoi fighter jet while defence minister Rajnath Singh had taken a sortie in the Tejas in 2019.

Last year, Singh had also taken a sortie in the light combat helicopter ‘Prachand’ developed by state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which has also manufactured Tejas. The strategy is also a message to India’s adversaries like Pakistan and China.

Sources further said the Narendra Modi-led government has taken giant steps in increasing India’s defence preparedness and indigenisation, including the Tejas aircraft. The first version of the aircraft was inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2016. At present, there are two fully operational squadrons with LCA Tejas.

The central government has also placed an order worth Rs 36,468 crore for the delivery of 83 LCA Mk 1A Tejas aircraft with HAL, the delivery for which 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 LCA Tejas.

To further promote indigenisation, including of the aircraft engine, transfer of technology for manufacturing of the GE engine in India has been negotiated with GE during PM Modi’s visit to the US in June. Many countries have also shown an interest in importing the LCA Tejas.

PM’s visit to HAL facility

The PM visited the LCA Tejas Final Assembly on Saturday and discussed the aircraft’s capabilities. Tejas is a lightweight, all-weather multi-role aircraft and has been operationally deployed with the IAF to be the mainstay of its fighter fleet in years to come. The aircraft is capable of undertaking offensive air support role as well as ground attach roles and is superior to its contemporaries.

Modi walked through the production line of LCA Tejas and interacted with the engineers on the different features of the aircraft. It was explained to him that the fighter jet is presently powered by GE 404 engine, which will get an upgrade to GE 414 Engine for LCA Mk II. This will be manufactured in India with 80 percent transfer of technology arrangement with GE Engines, for which a pact has already been signed.

This will be the first time that an engine of this class will be produced in India and is likely to bridge the technology gap that exists in India’s aero-engine domain.

Officials also briefed Modi on the capacity investments being done by HAL to produce LCA Tejas aircraft in greater numbers. The defence PSU has established two production lines of the aircraft in Bengaluru, and this can produce up to 16 aircraft per year. Further, an additional production line is being established at HAL Nashik to take the production rate beyond 24 aircraft from 2024-25. HAL is also planning to advance the deliveries of present and future orders of LCA Tejas to customers.

The PM also discussed the extent of indigenisation efforts of LCA Tejas. It was explained to him that flight controls, fuel systems, hydraulics, air-conditioning, mission and display systems have also been indigenised. He was informed that HAL is striving to take the indigenous content of the aircraft beyond 70 percent in the next three to four years under the indigenisation drive as part of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

Source : News18