President Murmu's sortie aboard a Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jet made her the third President, and second woman President, to participate in such a fighter sortie.
On April 8, 2023, the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, embarked on a sortie aboard a Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft at the Tezpur Air Force Station in Assam. In her role as Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, the President took to the skies for a duration of roughly 30 minutes, surveying the Brahmaputra and Tezpur valley while taking in a view of the Himalayas, before returning to the Air Force Station.
The aircraft was piloted by Group Captain Naveen Kumar, the Commanding Officer of the 106 Squadron. Throughout the duration of the sortie, the aircraft maintained an altitude of roughly two kilometers above sea level, reaching speeds of approximately 800 kilometers per hour. The President was also provided with a comprehensive briefing on the operational capabilities of the aircraft and the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The President took to the skies for a duration of roughly 30 minutes, surveying the Brahmaputra and Tezpur valley while taking in a view of the Himalayas, before returning to the Air Force Station.
After her sortie, the President shared her feelings by writing a brief note in the visitor's book, "It was an exhilarating experience for me to fly in the mighty Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force. It is a matter of pride that India's defence capabilities have expanded immensely to cover all the frontiers of land, air and sea. I congratulate the Indian Air Force and the entire team of Air Force Station Tezpur for organising this sortie."
The President's sortie in the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft is a part of her efforts to engage with the armed forces, as the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. In March 2023, the President visited INS Vikrant and interacted with officers and sailors on board of the indigenously built aircraft.
During her three-day trip to Assam, President Murmu made her way to Tezpur from Guwahati, where she was greeted at the air base by Air Marshal S.P. Dharkar, Governor Gulab Chand Kataria, and Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Following her landing in Tezpur, the President was honored with a guard of honor by IAF personnel, which was followed by an official briefing regarding her forthcoming flight aboard the Sukhoi aircraft.
The aircraft maintained an altitude of roughly two kilometers above sea level, reaching speeds of approximately 800 kilometers per hour.
President Murmu's sortie aboard a fighter jet made her the third President, and second woman President, to participate in such a flight. Prior to her, former Presidents Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil had taken similar rides from the Pune air base. In a similar streak, in January of this year, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had become the second Indian woman leader to participate in a sortie aboard a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet, embarking on a 45-minute ride from the Jodhpur Air Force station. Then Defence Minister George Fernandes had become the first high-ranking official to undertake a fighter sortie in 2003. Three years later, former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam became the first Indian President to participate in such a flight. Former President Pratibha Patil, in turn, became the first woman and oldest person to take part in a fighter jet ride in 2009. Other leaders who took part in similar flights include junior Defence Minister Rao Inderjit Singh, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju.
The Sukhoi Su-30 MKI is a high-performance fighter aircraft designed by Russia's Sukhoi and manufactured by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under license. As a versatile twin-seater, the aircraft is capable of conducting air superiority, ground attack, and reconnaissance missions with ease. It is outfitted with cutting-edge avionics and weapons systems, making it a powerful asset in the Indian Air Force's fleet. First inducted in 2002, the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI has the capability to engage in air-to-air, air-to-ground, and air-to-sea combat missions. Its advanced avionics, integrated electronic warfare suite, and long-range capabilities make it a versatile platform for strategic operations.
"It was an exhilarating experience for me to fly in the mighty Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force. It is a matter of pride that India's defence capabilities have expanded immensely to cover all the frontiers of land, air and sea," stated President Murmu.
The President's recent sortie aboard the Sukhoi reinforces the aircraft's advanced capabilities and highlights its critical role in the IAF. The President's sortie also aimed at increasing public awareness of the aircraft and the IAF's capabilities, as well as the government's ongoing efforts to strengthen national security.
India has made significant strides in modernising its Armed Forces in recent years, with an emphasis on enhancing their capabilities. The induction of advanced aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI and the Rafale fighter jets, in addition to other modern equipment, has bolstered the Indian Armed Forces' combat capabilities considerably.