India Eyes ‘Debut Contract’ For LCA Tejas Fighter Jets With Malaysia After BrahMos Success With The Philippines

Exactly three months after India’s indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas showcased “superior flying skills” at the Dubai Air Show 2021, it is gearing up to take to the skies for another event. 

The Indian Air Force Tejas will perform at the Singapore Air show 2022, which runs from February 15 to 18.

“The single jet performance will bring impressive stunts and maneuvers to Singapore’s skies,” the airshow organizers, Experia, said on February 7. “The air show will have eight flying displays and fly-pasts from four air forces and two commercial companies,” it said.

The US military, the Indonesian Aerobatic Team, and the Singapore Air Force will also be part of the aerial display, according to the organizers. A total of over 600 firms are expected to attend the event.

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While LCA Tejas has already proved its mettle and flying skills in Dubai last year, the Singapore air show becomes significant as neighboring Malaysia would be expected to keenly watch the aircraft.

The manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is competing against Turkey’s Hurjet to sell the Tejas to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).

As RMAF evaluates which of the two aircraft would be a perfect replacement for its BAE Systems Hawk 108 and Hawk 208, Turkish Aerospace Industries has started to court the Malaysian government.

It launched an office in Cyberjaya and a science park in Putrajaya, Malaysia. TAI General Manager Temel Kotil said, “that if the Huurjet wins the tender, 15 of the 18 aircraft would be manufactured in Malaysia”.

File Image: IAF Tejas Fighters

That said, the fly-past of LCA Tejas comes at an opportune moment as it could bolster the aircraft’s export potential in Southeast Asia.

At the Dubai Air show, Tejas had showcased breathtaking aerial maneuvers grabbing the attention of the audience. “The aircraft maneuvered effortlessly, showing off its agility and versatility,” the IAF had said after its demonstration at Dubai, adding that it is a testament to the rapid strides that the platform has achieved in recent times.

LCA Tejas For Malaysia

The tender was issued between June and October with the objective of replacing the Hawk 108 and Hawk 208 fighter jets as outlined in the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Capability Development 2055 or CAP55, said Senior Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein in November last year.

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According to reports, the Malaysian government is now evaluating the aircraft pitched by foreign suppliers. The selected vendor will have to source or buy at least 30% of their products/services from Malaysian companies.

With Turkish Aerospace Industries promising to manufacture 15 out of the total 18 aircraft in Malaysia, the competition has been significantly leveled up. The assurance regarding joint production of aircraft conforms to Malaysian expectations of boosting its own domestic industry. However, India’s HAL could also set up logistics bases in Malaysia.

In the backdrop of Turkish advancements, the LCA Tejas’ fly-past becomes all the more significant. Even at the Dubai Airshow, Tejas’ aerobatic display was specifically aimed at the Malaysian audience.

HAL’s managing director, R. Madhavan, stated that the company is ready to upgrade the jet to meet Malaysian regulations, citing flaws in the competing aircraft, Hurjet.

Hurjet is a proposed single-engine, tandem seat, supersonic advanced trainer and light attack aircraft, being developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries.

Tejas is in the last stages of development and is currently serving with the Indian Air Force. Hürjet, on the other hand, is still in development and will not take off for another year. However, Turkey is likely to complete the construction of its advanced trainer aircraft as soon as possible.

Turkey has agreed to press forward with the first-phase mass production of the Hürjet, a jet trainer/light attack aircraft, according to a statement released by the Defense Industry Executive Committee following a meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on January 12. The Hürjet is scheduled to fly for the first time in 2023, as previously reported by the EurAsian Times.

The RMAF is concerned about cost, as it plans to pay roughly $900 million for 18 fighters, or $50 million per fighter. Tejas is being sold for that price.

Somehow, this does put the LCA Tejas in a position of advantage over the Malaysian tender but the final decision lies with Kuala Lumpur.

In 2016, at the Bahrain Air Show, India first exhibited its LCA Tejas to potential overseas clients. Since then, HAL has been aggressively promoting this jet across Southeast Asia, West Asia, and North Africa. The state-owned aerospace company is said to be looking to develop logistics hubs in Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

Apart from Malaysia, Argentina, Egypt, and the UAE have also shown interest in the Indian LCA. However, if HAL wins the offer, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) could be the first overseas customer of Tejas.

LCA Tejas

The LCA Tejas is a fly-by-wire (FBW) fighter with the ability to refuel in the air. It also has a glass cockpit and a satellite-assisted inertial navigation system, making it a fourth-generation fighter.

It has the capability to transport air-to-ground bombs and attack systems that can be used to strike targets on land or at sea. It’s a supersonic combat jet with a 50,000-foot service ceiling. Its wingspan is 8.20 meters, its length is 13.20 meters, and its height is 4.40 meters.

The different foreign elements that make up the aircraft could be the only hurdle to its export. To export Tejas to other countries, India has to first obtain permission from foreign partners. However, with a friendly working relationship with partners and Malaysian need for an aircraft to combat Chinese threat, such hurdles should easily be overcome.