Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman undertakes sortie in Sukhoi

SansadTV Bureau

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday took off in the IAF’s frontline combat jet Sukhoi 30 MKI from the air base in Jodhpur.

Sukoi-30 MKI is a nuclear-capable aircraft which can penetrate deep into enemy territory.

The 58-year-old leader sat in the rear seat behind the pilot in the cockpit of the two-seater fighter jet, which took off from the Jodhpur air base.

Sitharaman later described the experience as “memorable”.

Looking calm, the country’s first woman defence minister waved from inside the cockpit and also could be seen showing a thumbs up sign as the aircraft moved for take off.

Sitharaman, is the country’s first woman Defence Minister since former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi held the additional charge of defence. 

She sat in the rear seat behind the pilot and was wearing the pilot’s G-suit. According to defence sources the sortie was for about 30 minutes.

With the 45-minute sortie aboard the supersonic jet, she also became the second Indian woman leader to fly in a Sukhoi-30 MKI after then president Pratibha Patil did so in 2009.

When he was the president, A P J Abdul Kalam had also flown in the fighter jet, an Air Force official said.

Sitharaman is the second defence minister after George Fernandes to fly in a Sukhoi-30 MKI, the official said.

Prior to the sortie, Sitharaman was briefed by the pilot. She also familiarised herself with the formidable fighter jet and its cockpit.

Earlier, Sitharaman met IAF personnel at the air force station here and reviewed the operational and combat preparedness of the force, sources said.