According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India accounts for about 11% of the global arms imports. Traditionally, India has been one of the largest importers of weapons in the world. But, under the mission of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, the government is not only trying to procure domestically manufactured weapons but also trying to increase the base of defence exports of the nation. The Ministry of Defence has set a target of Rs 35,000 crore defence export by 2025. To realize that target, the government is aggressively publicizing its highly sophisticated weapons to export.
Tejas for Malaysian Air Force
Reports suggest that a made-in-India fighter jet, Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), has emerged as a ‘frontrunner’ for the Malaysian requirement of light combat aircraft. The package of the deal includes the sale of 18 Tejas LCA jets and maintenance of Malaysia’s 18 Su 30 MKM fighter jets from its spare reserve & technical expertise.
In February 2022, a detachment of Tejas Mark 1 LCA fighter jets was flown to Changi International Airport in Singapore, to participate in the Singapore Airshow. The effort was to impress the prospective buyers by showing the manoeuvrable capabilities of Tejas, as the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) was looking to buy a mix of 36 light combat fighter jets under its “Capability 55” plan.
Among those competing with India to sell light combat aircraft to Malaysia were Turkey, China & Pakistan, Russia, and South Korea. Malaysia is not buying the fighter jets offered by China and Pakistan, who have collectively offered the JF-17 Thunder aircraft to Kuala Lumpur. South Korea and Russia’s offerings – the FA-50 Golden Eagle and MiG-35 respectively are not affordable for the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
In the contest, therefore, are India’s LCA Tejas and Turkey’s Hurjet fighters. But Turkey is yet to display the flight capabalities of the Hurjet aircraft, which continues to be developed. India’s LCA Tejas, on the other hand, is ready to be dispatched to Malaysia; meets all of the Malaysian Air Force’s requirements, and is well within Kuala Lumpur’s budget. Further, India’s years of manufacturing and maintenance experience with Sukhoi will keep the Malaysian Su30 MKM’s fleet in flight-worthy conditions.
With a wingspan of 8.20 meters, length of 13.20 meters, and height of 4.40 meters, Tejas LCA is the world’s lightest supersonic fighter and has the capability to carry Beyond Visual Range Weapons (BVR), air-to-surface, air-to-air, precision-guided and standoff weapons. Manufactured by HAL and designed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Fly-by-Wire (FBW) fighters can be refuelled mid-air and is a 4+ generation fighter and comes with a glass cockpit with Satellite aided Inertial Navigation System.
According to HAL, “Tejas is a single-engine, lightweight, highly agile, multi-role supersonic fighter. It has a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire Flight Control System (FCS) with associated advanced flight control laws. The aircraft with a delta wing is designed for ‘air combat’ and ‘offensive air support’ with ‘reconnaissance’ and ‘anti-ship’ as its secondary roles. Extensive use of advanced composites in the airframe gives a high strength to weight ratio, long fatigue life, and low radar signatures”.
The sales of Tejas LCA is strategically important for both the countries, as on one hand, Malaysia will get a reliable defence partner in the Indo-Pacific region and on the other, it will help in stabilizing the traditional commercial relationship between the two countries. The converging relationship is further important in light of the geopolitical manoeuvrings in the South China Sea.
Further, it will help in the country’s aspiring dream to become a net exporter of defence weapons. As the talks are already going on to supply highly sophisticated weapons like BrahMos to other pacific countries like Vietnam & the Philippines, the addition of Malaysia to this group will provide the country with both strategic as well as economic advantages.
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