India’s Tejas merges with Malaysia’s premier fighter jet program

India’s Tejas light fighter jet has become Malaysia’s first choice as it seeks to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets, and the two countries are currently in negotiations to advance the procurement process.

Malaysia has reduced its number of Indian aircraft despite stiff competition from the Chinese JF-17 jet, South Korean FA-50 and Russian Mig-35 as well as Yak-130 aircraft, said R Madhavan, chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), to PTI in an interview.

As part of the package, India has offered to set up an MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) facility in Malaysia for its fleet of Russian-sourced Su-30 fighters as it faces difficulties in procuring spare parts for the aircraft from Russia in view of Western sanctions against Moscow. “I’m very confident about that,” Madhavan added.

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The top executive of the state-run aerospace giant said if the deal is struck, it would send a “very good signal” to other potential buyers of the plane and increase its overall export potential.

”She (negotiation) is almost in the final stages. We are the only country that offers them the support for their Su-30 aircraft as well as apart from Russia, we are the only one that can support them to the extent they need for this fleet,’ Madhavan said.

It is learned that the Chinese JF-17 was cheaper but could not match the technical parameters of the Tejas Mk-IA variant and the Su-30 fleet maintenance offer as offered by India.

A team of senior officials and experts are expected to visit India soon to push the procurement process forward.

Madhavan said the Tejas was a far superior aircraft compared to the JF-17 and FA-50 and the selection of the Indian aircraft would give Malaysia the opportunity to participate in future fleet upgrades.

Tejas, manufactured by HAL, is a single-engine, highly agile supersonic multi-role fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-risk air environments.

In February last year, the Ministry of Defense reached a Rs 48,000 crore deal with HAL to purchase 83 Tejas fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF). India has started work on the MK 2 version of the Tejas as well as an ambitious $5 billion project to develop a fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

”We are actually the only ones who cover everything they need and we also met their budget requirements. “Nobody will give them upgrades as quickly as we would. They will have an alternative available in Tejas Mark 2 and they can even think of AMCA,” added the HAL chief.

It is not immediately clear how many aircraft Malaysia plans to acquire. He said the HAL would maintain the same level of services to Malaysia that it offered to the Indian Air Force.

Asked whether the supply of Tejas aircraft to the IAF will be affected, should HAL win the Malaysian contract, Madhavan said production of the aircraft would be ramped up as needed.

According to the plan, the HAL would start delivering the jets (Mk-IA variant) to the IAF in 2025 and all 83 jets should be handed over by 2030.

Madhavan said if the deal with Malaysia is sealed, it will signal the acceptability of the plane, which will open up many other options. ”We now have a very good platform. It’s the best in this category,” he added.


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