Malaysia is evaluating between Pakistani JF-17, Indian HAL Tejas or Korean FA-50 Golden Eagle Fighter Jets. Malaysia was initially eyeing larger jets like the Rafale and Typhoon, but that plan was shelved due to budget constraints, and the country is now exploring light combat aircrafts like JF-17, HAL Tejas and FA-50 Golden Eagle.
The JF-17 is under consideration alongside the Tejas, produced by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, and the FA-50 Golden Eagle, made by South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries.
Pakistan’s offering is the most affordable of the three. Pakistan renewed efforts last year, most notably at April’s DSA defence expo in Malaysia and November’s IDEAS defence conference in Pakistan. Pakistan is offering the latest Block III variant. The Block III “is quite encouraging” with an active electronically scanned array radar, helmet-mounted display and sight, electronic countermeasures, and an additional underbelly intake sensor station.
The JF-17 costs $25 million per unit, and the Tejas and the FA-50 cost approximately $28 million and $30 million respectively. However, the JF-17’s Russian engine may be problematic, as due to serviceability issues with the related engine of Malaysia’s MiG-29s, probably requiring “significant after-sales support and maintenance,” according to experts.
The Tejas is powered by the same General Electric F404 engine used in Malaysia’s F/A-18s, and shares weaponry with the Su-30s. However, the Tejas’ Israeli avionics would likely need replaced, which “invariably means additional costs,” according to experts
While the FA-50 is the “costliest prima facie,” it is also powered by the F404, shares weaponry used by the F/A-18, may have “lower downstream costs” and is in service regionally, allowing “interoperability between its major regional counterparts during exercises and operations,” he added.
So, where does India’s locally-made fighter which got widely applauded for its agility and maneuverability at the LIMA show held last week of March, stand vis-à-vis Pakistan’s JF-17 and Korea’s FA-50 Golden Eagle?
The HAL Tejas’ fly-by-wire capability, air-to-air refueling, the avionics that have been wonderfully-integrated and the open architecture computer systems, where both Russian and Western weaponry can be assimilated, are all unique and demarcates Tejas as a different generation fighter.”
Experts have emphasised that both India and Malaysia share this common military strategy of using both Russian as well as NATO weapons systems and Tejas has been built to make it adaptable to both.”
Pakistan’s JF-17, which is built on Chinese design and technology, did not show up in LIMA. Meanwhile, pro-Pakistan media plugs seemed to have taken over the narrative here, after Tejas’s impressive show, claiming Malaysia would buy two JF-17 for ‘evaluation’ a notion rejected by defence experts.
The advantage with HAL Tejas is there’s scope for not just transfer of India’s indigenous technology but also transform; this deal, if comes through, can help identify and build Malaysia’s own indigenous capacity in defence production.” And India is a large trading partner of Malaysia and the who would not want to boost ties with the world’s fastest-growing economy – India.
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