Diplomacy

India may pitch ‘Tejas’ jet against China-Pakistan JF-17 in Malaysia tender: Report

File Photo: India’s Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’

New Delhi: India’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ could enter a contest against China-Pakistan JF-17 in the Royal Malaysian Air Force‘s tender. If Tejas wins the race to supply 36 new light combat aircraft to Malaysia, this will be India’s first foreign sale and export of the indigenous fourth generation, single-engine plane.

The contest could happen only if the Narendra Modi government allows the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to pitch the Tejas aircraft to Malaysia, amid a slump in India’s bilateral ties with Kaula Lumpur, according to a report in The Print today.

India is cut up with Malaysia for its stand opposing the Modi government’s scrapping of the autonomy provided to Jammu and Kashmir under the Constitution of India‘s Article 370 in August.

However, Malaysia has continued to show interest in the Tejas aircraft and is reported to have shortlisted the Indian jet, designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation‘s Aeronautical Development Agency and produced by HAL, to participate in its air force tender in 2020.

The other contenders in the tender could be South Korean Korean Aerospace Industries Limited‘s T-50 Golden Eagle, Russian A. S. Yakovlev Design Bureau‘s YAK-130 and the United Kingdom BAE Systems‘ armed Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer.

The Swedish SAAB AB‘s Gripen, which is also readying to compete in a future tender for 114 medium multi-role combat aircraft under the ‘Make in India‘ initiative, is also in contention, the report said, without naming the source of the information.

HAL is keen on responding to the tender if it receives the documents and would be pitching a version of the Tejas that best suits the Malaysian air force’s needs, as would be stated in the Request for Proposals. A Malaysian team is said to have visited the HAL headquarters in Bengaluru in the end of September to interact with the Tejas project team members.

After Kuala Lumpur took an anti-India stand on the change in Jammu and Kashmir’s status under the new amended Indian Constitution, importers from India, which is globally the largest palm oil consumer, had avoided ordering the edible oil from Malaysia, which is the world’s second largest producer. They resumed imports of Malaysian palm oil only earlier this month.

Tejas aircraft’s capability of accommodating both Russian-origin and western-origin weaponry and systems on board is a great advantage to HAL’s bid to win the Malaysian tender, the report said. Malaysian air force deploys both the Russian Sukhoi Company‘s aircraft and the American Boeing Company F/A-18. Tejas and F/A-18 are powered by the American aeroengine maker GE Aviation‘s F-404.

In March, Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) chief General Affendi bin Buang had said that the new aircraft requirements would enable the air force to keep up with advanced technology and capability, the report said.

Unnamed sources from HAL reportedly stated that the foreign order for Tejas would not impact the Indian Air Force‘s (IAF’s) supply schedule, as the production line is being improved and bettered to produce 16 Light Combat Aircraft a year, by doubling the current capacity of eight aircraft annually.

HAL is currently awaiting the IAF contract for 83 Tejas Mk1A jets, after having responded to the Request for Proposals issued by India’s Ministry of Defence to meet the air force’s falling combat squadron strength.

HAL is preparing to produce of 20 Tejas Mk1 in its Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configuration beginning this month, for supply to the IAF. The production agency has earlier manufactured 20 Tejas Mk1 in its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration for the IAF.

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