Tejas fighter jet emerges as Malaysia’s top choice to replace old aircraft

India’s Tejas light combat aircraft fighter jet is emerging as Malaysia’s top choice as the South Asian country looks to replace its aging fighter jet fleet and both sides are in talks to strengthen procurement. Despite stiff competition from China’s JF-17 jets, South Korea’s FA-50 and Russia’s MiG-35 as well as the Yak-130, Malaysia has eased its hold on Indian aircraft, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) said. Chairman and Managing Director of R. Madhavan told PTI in an interview.

As part of the package, India has offered to set up an MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facility for its Russian-origin Su-30 fighter fleet in Malaysia because of difficulties in procuring parts for the aircraft from Russia. facing. Western sanctions against Moscow. Asked if the deal would be closed soon, Madhavan said, “I am very sure about it unless there is some political change.”

The top executive of the state-run aerospace giant said if the deal is sealed, it would send a “very good signal” to other potential buyers of the aircraft and boost its overall export potential. “It (negotiations) are almost in the final stages. We are the only country offering them support for their Su-30s apart from Russia, we are the only ones who can support them to the extent they need it. This is the Sukhoi fleet,” Madhavan said.

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It turns out 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 proposed by India. A team of highly placed officials and experts is expected to visit India soon to take the procurement process forward. Malaysia is buying aircraft to replace its fleet of old Russian MiG-29 fighters. It was not immediately clear how many planes Malaysia is looking to buy.

Madhavan said Tejas is a much better aircraft than the JF-17 and FA-50 and the selection of Indian aircraft will give Malaysia an option to go for fleet upgrades in future. Tejas, manufactured by HAL, is a single engine and highly agile multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-threat air environments.

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

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“Actually we are the only ones who covered everything they needed and we also met their budget requirements,” Madhavan said. “Nobody will offer them an upgrade as fast as we offer. They will have an option available in Tejas Mark 2 and can even look at AMCA,” the HAL chief said.

He said that HAL is going to maintain the same level of services to Malaysia as it is providing to the Air Force. Asked whether the supply of Tejas jets to the IAF would be affected if HAL wins the Malaysian contract, Madhavan said production of the aircraft would be scaled up based on the requirement.

As per the plan, HAL will start delivering jets (Mk-IA variant) to the Indian Air Force in 2025 and all 83 jets will have to be handed over by 2030. Madhavan said that if the deal with Malaysia closes, it would indicate the acceptance of the aircraft, which would result in opening up of many other options. “Now we have a very good platform. It’s the best in this category,” he said.

(with inputs from PTI)

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