Eye on Malaysia, Tejas fighter to perform in Singapore - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 12 February 2022

Eye on Malaysia, Tejas fighter to perform in Singapore

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 12th Feb 22


A detachment of Tejas Mark 1 fighters flew on Saturday from the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Coimbatore to Changi International Airport in Singapore to participate in the Singapore Airshow – 2022 from February 15-18. 


The aircraft are accompanied by a 44-person IAF team, which will be responsible for flying, displaying and maintaining the Tejas fighters during its daily aerobatics displays in the show.


The IAF will be pushing hard to bag an order from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), which is looking to buy a mix of 36 light fighter variants under its “Capability 55” plan. 


Launched in 2018, the plan envisions procuring a mix of light combat aircraft (LCA) and fighter lead-in trainers (FLIT) in two phases – 18 aircraft to be supplied from 2022-23 and another 18 from 2025 onwards.


According to authoritative aerospace publishing house, Jane’s, the RMAF will distribute the 36 aircraft between one LIFT and two LCA squadrons.


In June 2021, Malaysia’s defence ministry kicked off the acquisition of the initial 18 aircraft, of which eight will be LIFT and ten will be LCAs. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which manufactures the Tejas, submitted its bid by the due date of September 22, 2021.


The IAF had already been showcasing the Tejas’ performance by fielding the aircraft in global defence and aerospace exhibitions, including the Bahrain International Air Show in 2016, the Langkawi International Maritime Aerospace Expo (LIMA) in 2019 and the Dubai Air Show-2021 last November.


“The IAF will be pitching the indigenous Tejas Mark-1 aircraft alongside participants from across the world. The Tejas will be enthralling the audience with its display of low level aerobatics, displaying its superior handling characteristics and maneuverability,” stated an IAF press statement on Saturday. 


Aerospace industry watchers say that in the supersonic LCA category the RMAF is deciding between three light fighters on offer: the Tejas Mark 1, the South Korean FA-50 Golden Eagle, the Russian MiG-35 and the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder, which already equips the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).


Competing in the sub-sonic FLIT category are three less powerful jet trainers: Italian firm Leonardo’s M-346FA aircraft, the South Korean T-50 trainer and the Russian Yakovlev-130.


“The participation of the IAF in the air show provides India with the opportunity to showcase the Tejas aircraft and to interact with counterparts from the RSAF (Royal Singapore Air Force) and other participating contingents,” stated the MoD.


The RMAF’s “Capability 55” modernisation programme envisages adding a single-engine, supersonic fighter to the current RMAF fleet, which consists mainly of twin-engine fighters. These include eight Boeing F/A-18D Hornets and 18 Russian Sukhoi-30MKM Flankers. Efforts to replace the RMAF’s aged MiG-29 Fulcrum interceptors have stalled due to lack of funds.


The RMAF has specified exacting tender requirements, which include mid-air refuelling, beyond-visual-range (BVR) combat and supersonic flight capabilities. Manufacture must be localised in Malaysia to the extent of 30 per cent of the aircraft and delivery must begin within 36 months of signing the contract. 


HAL chief, R Madhavan, told Business Standard that almost every one of the RMAF requirements had been met and others, such as an on-board oxygen generating system (OBOGS) could be easily engineered. 


HAL has offered the RMAF the sophisticated Mark 1A version of the Tejas, which has mid-air refueling, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, electronic warfare (EW) capability and the ability to fire BVR missiles.


On the other hand, competitors are falling short on many of the RMAF requirements. The JF-17 Thunder does not have the specified AESA radar. Turkey does not yet have a flying aircraft, while any Chinese offering will be treated with suspicion, given Kuala Lumpur’s wariness of Beijing after recent incursions by Chinese aircraft and warships into disputed waters in the South China Sea.


Price is important too for the RMAF, which, sources say, expects to pay in the region of $900 million for 18 fighters, or $45-50 million per fighter. The Tejas is understood to be falling in that price band.


The Korean fighter is understood to be slightly more expensive than the Tejas and the Russian MiG-35 significantly so. Meanwhile, the Chinese are believed to have slashed the price of the JF-17 by about 30 per cent, a loss it is willing to bear in order to capture the market.


  1. The fighters that India has decided to develop and eventually buy from HAL and DRDO can do a lot of good in the case of creating jobs, both in manufacturing and servicing the aircraft. Exporting the aircraft could further the reputation of the domestic military aeronautical complex. If the Royal Malaysian Air Force does decide to buy the Tejas, I am sure that they will operate the aircraft to their strengths. I expect the range of the Indian air to air BVR missiles to increase further and the function of the AESA radars to improve, in the future.
    So, when are the Tejas Mk1a going to be inducted into the Indian Air Force in numbers? Is this going to happen after the RMAF requirements are met? What is the priority of HAL in this regard?

  2. JF-17 BLOCK lll has AESA radar. Will be participating in 23rd March flypast celebrating Republic Day

  3. JF-17 was not even offered by Pakistan in bid. Why are you spreading fake news here?


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