India’s homegrown HAL Tejas MK-1A fighter jet has emerged as a strong contender for Malaysia’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) deal. Reports suggest that the low-cost Tejas may find other foreign buyers as well in the next few years.
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India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will respond to the Request for Proposal (RFP) of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) by September this year, reported Financial Express.
Last month, Malaysia released a tender for the acquisition of 18 fighter jets, which can perform the dual role of combat aircraft and advanced fighter trainers. Interestingly, this tender was issued weeks after alleged Chinese aerial incursions into the Malaysian airspace over the South China Sea.
The Southeast Asian country intends to replace its older fleet of aircraft, which includes 18 BAE Hawk 108 and 208 light combat aircraft and seven Aermacchi MB-339CM trainers, reported Defense News.
The tender followed an earlier request for information for its Fighter Lead-In Trainer-Light Combat Aircraft (FLIT-LCA) program from various manufacturers in December 2018.
India’s Tejas was a contender along with seven other platforms, such as the Boeing T-7 Red Hawk, KAI FA-50 of South Korea, Leonardo M-346 Master of Italy, PAC JF-17 jointly manufactured by China-Pakistan, Hongdu L-15 of China, Yakolev Yak-130 of Russia, and Vodochody L-39NG of Czech Republic.
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According to the HAL, the price of its aircraft to be exported will be Rs 309 crore per unit, which makes it the cheapest available fighter jet in the world. Extra charges will, however, be levied for the services to be provided after the procurement.
Also, according to the company, the export versions of the LCA Tejas will be different from those which will be inducted into the Indian Air Force.
The LCA Tejas MK1A has been designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and manufactured by HAL. It is an advanced fly-by-wire (FBW), 4+ generation fighter and comes with a glass cockpit with a satellite-aided inertial navigation system.
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The advanced version of the MK1, the MK-1A is a multi-role aircraft, equipped with improved features, such as mid-air refueling, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile capabilities, updated Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar and Electronic Warfare (EW).
It can carry a payload of 3,500 kg, including long-range BVR missiles and standoff and precision-guided weapons. It has a service ceiling of 15km, which enables the aircraft to conduct offensive air support and air combat operations.
The LCA Tejas is an integral part of the Modi government’s “Make in India” initiative. Earlier this year, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved a deal worth Rs 48,000 crore for the acquisition of 83 LCA Tejas for the Indian Air Force.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had described the deal as a “game-changer for self-reliance in the Indian Defence Manufacturing”, and that the LCA Tejas will be the backbone of the IAF fighter fleet in the future.
The LCA-Tejas is going to be the backbone of the IAF fighter fleet in years to come. LCA-Tejas incorporates a large number of new technologies many of which were never attempted in India. The indigenous content of LCA-Tejas is 50% in Mk1A variant which will be enhanced to 60%.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) January 13, 2021
The deal includes the procurement of 73 LCA Tejas MK-1A fighter aircraft and 10 trainer jets. To ensure timely deliveries to the IAF, the HAL has reportedly established a second-line manufacturing facility at its divisions at Nasik and Bengaluru.
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Malaysia’s Interest In Tejas
The EurAsian Times had earlier reported that the LCA Tejas had been shortlisted as a contender along with the KAI FA-50 and JF-17, by the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
In 2019, the aircraft generated much interest at the 2019 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA-2019).
#LIMA2019 : Flying readily captures the imagination of everyone, indeed display flying, epitomises daring, adventure & glamour associated with fighter flying.
The show commenced on 26 Mar 19, glimpses of #Tejas at Malaysia on 1st day of LIMA-19.@chedetofficial@SpokespersonMoD pic.twitter.com/QJ7KI5Olet
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) March 27, 2019
Also, it was reported that a Malaysian team is expected to visit Bengaluru to take stock of the LCA production facilities. The reports mentioned that the Malaysian team may also be given access to test infrastructure and demonstration of the combat capabilities of the aircraft.
HAL’s Global Footprint
In order to boost exports of its platforms such as the Tejas, attack helicopter Rudra and advanced light helicopter Dhruva, HAL has been looking to establish logistic bases in Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. According to the company, maintenance facilities can be easily set up in these countries.
“We are looking at exports very seriously. A sizable number of countries are showing lots of interest in the platforms we are producing, as they are world-class. We are in talks with so many countries,” HAL Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan had said earlier.
Explaining the potential for the export of the LCA Tejas, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had stated that the Tejas was “not only indigenous but better than its foreign equivalents on several parameters and also comparatively cheaper”. He had asserted that the first export order for the procurement of Tejas is likely to come by in the next few years.
Madhavan noted Tejas’ superior performance levels than the Chinese JF-17. He stated that the Tejas is equipped with a better engine, radar system, electronic warfare suite and has the capability of air-to-air refueling, something the Chinese aircraft lack.