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A vertical climb to glory: Tejas enthralls at Air Force Day

With vertical climbs, loops, turns and more, indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas on Sunday left spectators spellbound as it flew over the Hindon airbase at a function to mark the 85th Air Force Day.

Poor visibility failed to play spoilsport for the indigenous fighter, the most recent one to join the Indian Air Force, as it took off right in front of the area where the parade was held, with a vertical climb followed by a loop.

The fighter jet was being flown by Group Captain Madhav Rangachari, an ace pilot of the IAF who has been involved with the LCA since its test flights.

The ‘Vertical Charlie’ was meant to be a salute to the Air Force Chief, and the steep climb displays the aircraft’s ability to to quickly climb to heights to combat enemy fighters.

From the vertical climb, the Tejas took a loop along the runway, followed by a ‘maximum rate turn’, a manoeuvre that demonstrates the aircraft’s ability to change direction in the shortest possible time. It is an important ability for a fighter jet in air-to-air combat, to chase or escape the enemy fighter.

The next was an ‘outside turn’, a display of the ability of the aircraft’s fuel system and its ability to handle prolonged negative G flight. Negative G is the acceleration when an object is falling towards ground, or going downward.

The aircraft then took a ‘minimum radius turn’, an important manoeuvre to gain advantageous position against the enemy aircraft in combat situation. The fighter also showcased its slow flying capability at mere 125 knots speed, with a high angle of attack, which indicated the engine’s strength.

The final manoeuvre for the day from the indigenous fighter jet was a series of rapid rolls, leaving the spectators enthralled.

The IAF is buying 40 Tejas LCAs – 20 with Initial Operational Clearance and 20 with Final Operational Clearance. In addition, 83 more LCAs are to be bought, and this will make up for the requirement of single engine aircraft.

The colourful flypast also saw a Surya Kiran Aerobatic team flying in different formations, though they did not carry out vertical manoeuvres due to poor visibility.

The Surya Kiran team, which flies on Hawk jets, dedicated their display to Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh, who passed away on September 16.

The first formation by the team represented the Tejas, dedicated to those who created the world class fighter in India.

The other formations included Sukhoi, Rafale, Hunter and to everyone’s surprise in formation of a Gripen aircraft. Saab’s Gripen is one of the fighters in competition as India is set to choose a single engine fighter jet to be made under the strategic partnership model.

Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa however clarified that the display had nothing to do with the decision that was still to be taken.

Asked if it was an indication that India would be selecting the Gripen fighter jet, the Air Force Chief said: “It has got nothing to do with that. It was just a shape with a canard in front. It can be any fighter, they just called it Gripen. It has nothing to do with Gripen.”

More colours to the display were added by the Sarang team, with their indigenous Dhruv helicopters painted with Peacock feathers.

The other aircraft that flew in the flypast included vintage Tiger Moth and Harvard aircraft, transport aircraft C-130, C-17, Embraer aircraft with AWACS, fighter jets Sukhoi-30, Jaguar and Mirage 2000.