India: Top contender for Malaysia’s fighter jet order

India has emerged as the top contender for a Malaysian requirement of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) with a package deal that would include maintenance and spares for the nation’s Russian-origin Su 30 fighter jets. The Malaysian air force is looking to buy 18 new light fighter jets.

India is offering an appealing package for LCA Tejas for this deal. It has committed that it can keep Malaysia’s fleet of 18 Su 30 MKM jets flightworthy, given the vast spares reserve and technical expertise available with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

India has emerged as the top contender for a Malaysian requirement of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)

Other contenders for the deal — primarily South Korea and China — are not in a position to offer this package as they do not have backend contracts with Russian manufacturers to work on the Sukhoi fighters. Malaysia has 18 of the Su 30 MKM fighters, which are very similar to the MKI version that is in service with the Indian Air Force. 

It is learnt that detailed discussions on the dual package have taken place and a final decision may be possible under the government-to-government route. Several nations like Malaysia have been impacted by western sanctions on Russia that have made ordering spares and other supplies for legacy military equipment challenging. 

The Tejas is an indigenously developed, single-engine, fourth-generation, high-agility, multirole, supersonic light combat aircraft.

India has priced LCA Tejas at around USD 42 million per unit for the package.

The LCA Tejas MK1A has been designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and manufactured by HAL. It is an advanced fly-by-wire (FBW), 4+ generation fighter and comes with a glass cockpit with a satellite-aided inertial navigation system.

The advanced version of the MK1, the MK-1A is a multi-role aircraft, equipped with improved features, such as mid-air refuelling, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile capabilities, updated Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar and Electronic Warfare (EW).

It can carry a payload of 3,500 kg, including long-range BVR missiles and standoff and precision-guided weapons. It has a service ceiling of 50,000 ft which enables the aircraft to conduct offensive air support and air combat operations. The LCA Tejas is an integral part of the Modi government’s “Make in India” initiative.

It is to be noted that the Indian government has set an annual export target of USD 5 billion, or Rs 36,500 crore by 2025.

Madhavan noted Tejas’ superior performance levels to the Chinese JF-17. He stated that the Tejas is equipped with a better engine, radar system, and electronic warfare suite and has the capability of air-to-air refuelling, something the Chinese aircraft lack. 

“We are looking at exports very seriously. A sizable number of countries are showing lots of interest in the platforms we are producing, as they are world-class. We are in talks with so many countries”

R Madhavan, Hal Chairman and Managing Director

Explaining the potential for the export of the LCA Tejas, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had stated that the Tejas were “not only indigenous but better than its foreign equivalents on several parameters and also comparatively cheaper”. He had asserted that the first export order for the procurement of Tejas is likely to come by in the next few years.