India’s Tejas light combat aircraft has risen to the top of Malaysia’s list of contenders as the Southeast Asian nation looks to replace its ageing aircraft fleet, and the two sides are holding negotiations to finalize the deal.
The Malaysian government is keen on buying the Indian aircraft despite stiff competition from China’s JF-17 jet, South Korea’s FA-50, Russia’s Mig-35, and the Yak-130, According to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Chairman and Managing Director, R Madhavan.
India has proposed to establish an MRO facility in Malaysia for its fleet of Russian-made Su-30 fighters as part of the deal because it is having trouble obtaining spare parts from Russia due to Western sanctions against Moscow.
When questioned about how quickly the agreement will be finalised, Madhavan responded, “I am very confident about it unless some political shift takes place”. If the deal is completed, it will send a “really good signal” to other possible buyers of the aircraft and increase its overall export potential, according to the chief executive of the state-run aerospace powerhouse.
“The negotiation is almost in the final stages. We are the only country which is offering them the support for their Su-30 aircraft as other than Russia, we are the only one who can support them to the extent that they require for the Sukhoi fleet,” Madhavan said.
Although the Chinese JF-17 was reportedly less expensive, it was unable to meet the Tejas Mk-IA variant’s technological specifications or India’s pledge to maintain the Su-30 fleet.
To advance the procurement process, a group of senior officials and professionals is scheduled to visit India soon.
The aircraft will replace Malaysia’s ageing fleet of Russian MiG-29 fighter jets. It’s not immediately known how many aircraft Malaysia is considering buying.
According to Madhavan, Tejas is a far superior aircraft to the JF-17 and FA-50, and Malaysia would have the opportunity to update its fleet in the future if it chose to use the Indian aircraft.
The HAL-produced Tejas is a single-engine, highly manoeuvrable, multi-role supersonic fighter capable of flying in dangerous airspace.
The defence ministry signed a contract with HAL in February of last year for the purchase of 83 Tejas fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Indian engineers have begun work on the Tejas MK 2 as well as a $5 billion initiative to create a fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
“We actually are the only one who covered everything that they require and we met their budget requirements as well,” Madhavan said.
“Nobody will offer them upgrades so fast as we would offer. They will have an alternative available in Tejas Mark 2 and they can even think of AMCA,” the HAL chief added.
According to Madhavan HAL will continue to provide Malaysia with the same level of services that it has been providing to the IAF.
When asked if HAL winning the Malaysian contract will have an influence on the delivery of Tejas jets to the IAF, Madhavan responded that manufacturing of the aircraft would be increased based on demand.
The plan stipulates that the HAL would begin transferring the planes (Mk-IA type) to the IAF in 2025, and all 83 jets must be transferred by 2030.
If the agreement with Malaysia is finalised, according to Madhavan, it will signify that the plane is acceptable, which would lead to the opening of numerous other choices. “We now have a very good platform. It is the best in this category,” he said.