The head of the United States Air Force (USAF) General David L. Goldfein came visiting India last month – a trip that was headlined by his flight in the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). With photographs of his flight all over the place, the ride certainly flew a distance to foster warmth in the military relations between the two countries.
But an LCA ride might have turned into something else entirely, had the original request for a demonstration flight been acceded by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The Americans had asked for a flight in an Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter – specifically, the Sukhoi-30 MKI. The IAF demurred, saying the Russians would object, and cited the example of the visiting defence minister of Singapore, Ng Eng Hen, who had flown backseat in the Tejas LCA last November, to persuade Americans of the prospect of a similar experience.
As it happens, it turned out well as a public relations exercise, even though U.S. officials might have originally hoped for something else entirely.
What is also interesting but completely unrelated is that General Goldfein was shot down in his F-16 in 1999 by the Serbians in the former Yugoslavia, a little more than a month after the infamous incident when the same air defence brigade shot down a U.S. F117A Night Hawk stealth attack aircraft. He ejected and was recovered by a Search and Rescue mission.