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India business tycoon set to fly an F-16

February 5, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The 69-year-old chairperson of India's Tata group, Ratan Tata is scheduled to fly the F-16 fighter jet later this week at the Bangalore-based Aero India 2007 show.
The air show is held from February 7-11 while the flight is scheduled for the afternoon of February 8th.

Ratan Tata was recently in the news for snapping up Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus for $12-billion. He is a licensed pilot who occasionally flies the company plane, a Falcon 200. He was invited by US defence contractor Lockheed Martin to fly the F-16 multi-role combat aircraft.

Tata, who has undergone medical tests and ground training, will be accompanied by a Lockheed test pilot.

The Indian Air Force has announced plans to buy 126 multi-role fighters for an estimated $9-billion - one of the biggest global military jet purchases in recent times - to modernise a fleet that consists mostly of Russian MiGs.

Other aircraft competing for the aircraft tender, besides the Lockheed Martin F-16 are the Russian MiG-35, Swedish JAS-39, Eurofighter Typhoon, French Rafale, Boeing's F/A-18F Super Hornet.

The Tatas are not new to aviation. Ratan Tata's predecessor JRD Tata is celebrated as father of India's civil aviation. JRD Tata had launched Tata Airlines in 1932, which was nationalised in 1953 and rechristened Air-India.

Last year, President APJ Abdul Kalam became the first commander-in-chief of the armed forces to undertake a historic 30 minute sortie on IAF's Sukhoi-30 MKI.

In 2003, then Defence Minister George Fernandes had flown the Sukhoi as well the MIG-21.