And now, Indian cosmonaut flies Boeing fighter jet

February 13th, 2009 - 8:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Feb 13 (IANS) India’s only cosmonaut Wing Commander (retd) Rakesh Sharma Friday co-piloted Boeing’s fighter jet F/A-18 Super Hornet at the Aero India international air show here.
“It was very exciting. It is nice to get back to what I like the most - experiencing zero gravity. Flying at 6G was exciting,” the 60-year-old former Indian Air Force (IAF) officer told reporters after an hour-long sortie on a clear sunny day.

The strike fighter carried out loops, aerobatics and simulations during the sortie.

Sharma, who orbited around the earth aboard the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz T-11 in April 1984, flew with Boeing test pilot Daniel ‘Blue’ Hannum in the twin-engined warbird at a speed up to 450 knots and descended at 135 knots to land safely at the IAF Yelahanka station, about 20 km from the city.

“I was impressed with the controls and other mechanism of the US multi-role fighter,” Sharma said.

Hannum, who was all praise for Sharma, said it was a joy to ride along with a veteran pilot who went to become the country’s first cosmonaut.

“India is doing well in aviation, especially in the defence sector, with large-scale upgradation of the combat aircraft with the IAF,” Hannum noted.

Incidentally, the fourth generation Super Hornet is also in the race for the IAF tender floated to induct 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) into its depleting fleet and as a replacement in phases to the ageing Russian-made MiG-21 fighters.

On the delay over selection of the MMRCA, Hannum said it was expected as the selection process was long and arduous.

“The IAF leaves no stone unturned to procure the best,” he added.

Indian ace shooter and Olympics Gold medalist Abhinav Bindra flew in another US fighter jet (F-16IN) of global aerospace major Lockheed Martin Thursday.

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