Kiren Rijiju graces Su-30MKI
From the IAF perspective, it does help if the political leadership is familiarised with the frontline activities and responsibilities that IAF personnel shoulder and the hazards they face
In response to the invitation by Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Chief of the Air Staff, on May 18, 2016, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju joined the list of dignitaries who have honoured the Indian Air Force (IAF) by flying in the cockpit of front line combat aircraft in service. The list of dignitaries who have undertaken similar flights earlier on includes luminaries such as the President of India Pratibha Patil followed by Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Other dignitaries who have flown in fighter aircraft are the former Defence Minister George Fernandes, Rao Inderjit Singh, Minister of State for Defence, and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, currently Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
VVIPs regularly fly as passengers on board transport aircraft and helicopters of the IAF appropriately modified for VVIP travel. But flying in the cockpit of a fighter aircraft is a different kettle of fish! From the perspective of the IAF, it does help if the political leadership is familiarised with the front line activities and responsibilities that IAF personnel shoulder and the hazards that they face. A lot younger in age compared to some of the other dignitaries mentioned above and perhaps the youngest, the 44-year-old Union Minister of State looking resplendent in a G-suit that fighter pilots wear, occupied the rear cockpit of the Su-30MKI at Air Force Station Halwara, a major fighter base in Punjab. Having completed all medical clearance formalities, Kiren Rijiju flew with a highly experienced fighter pilot in the supersonic jet for about 30 minutes. After landing, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs said, “Flying in the Su-30 has brought me closer to the IAF team at Air Force Station Halwara. My salute to brave pilots for securing our sky”.
The Su-30MKI fleet is now the mainstay of the combat fleet of the IAF. Of the 272 aircraft ordered, the IAF has inducted 210 so far. It is understood that the IAF is to place orders for another 40 such platforms taking the fleet strength to 312 once delivery of the total order is completed.