Ng Eng Hen, the Singaporean Defence Minister took a half-hour flight in the two-seater Indian indigenous light combat jet Tejas, after which he called the air craft to be “very, very capable” and “very smooth”.

Indian Air Force’s indigenously build combat aircraft Tejas seems to have scored itself a new brand ambassador – Mr Ng Eng Hen, the Defence minister of island nation Singapore. On Tuesday, the minister took a flight in the two seated aircraft which was piloted by Air Vice Marshal A P Singh at the Kalaikunda airbase, to become the first civilian foreigner to fly on Tejas. Soon after the flight, Ng Eng couldn’t stop praising the Tejas jet, which has been receiving some about doubts about its capabilities and for delays in its deployment lately. Soon after the flight in rear-cockpit of Tejas, Ng Eng said, “I am not a pilot. But I can say it felt like I was riding in a car; it was really smooth. It is a very very capable plane.”

Singapore, being a tiny island country, has very little space on its own land to conduct combat air practices, so the country has been leasing out the Indian West Bengali airbase at Kalaikunda base for its drills since 2004. Apart from that, about 100 Singaporean Air Force personnel have been stationed at Kalaikunda with six F-16 fighter jets since a month, to exchange and learn their skills with the IAF personnel. On that, Ng Eng said, “This is the reason why our air force trains with your air force. Pilots are superb, planes are pretty good.”

Ng Eng also said that there could be possibilities of multilateral naval exercises between India and Singapore, which will take further the bilateral cooperation. It will also boost India’s Act East policy and the relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). With a schedule to meet Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today, Ng Eng said, “Ms. Sitharaman and I would discuss India’s relations with ASEAN which could include multilateral exercises both in the Indian and Andaman seas. That we are keen because Andaman is geographically very close to the Straits of Malacca and sea lanes of communication… I would see at as more confidence building measures and as a signal as what multilateralism can be”. These are indications of strengthening Indo-Singaporean relations.

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