Indian business tycoon to fly F-16 fighter jet

After gaining media attention for snapping up the US$12.1 billion (EUR 9.3 billion) European steel-maker Corus, the 69-year-old head of India's Tata business empire plans to soar to greater heights in a F-16 fighter jet.

Ratan Tata, a trained pilot who heads the Tata Group, told CNN-IBN television channel he was "excited and looking forward" to flying the Lockheed Martin F-16 at the Aero India Show, which opens in Bangalore on Feb. 7.

A Tata company spokesman said Lockheed Martin had invited Tata to pilot its plane.

"I don't get much spare time, but what little spare time I have is spent flying," Tata said in an interview posted on the company's Web site. "I am a trained pilot for both planes and helicopters."

The U.S. defense and aerospace major Lockheed is making a strong bid for the 126 multi-role fighters that the Indian air force plans to buy this year at an estimated cost of US$9 billion (EUR 6.9 billion).

The Tata Group is a sprawling business conglomerate with interests spanning from salt to software. It has been among the most aggressive Indian companies in seeking overseas acquisitions to gain global visibility. It is not involved in the air force's bid for fighters, and has no stake in Lockheed, reports AP.

A combined Tata-Corus venture could produce 25 million tons of steel a year, making it the world's fifth-largest steel producer.

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