Are seven countries interested in buying Tejas?
After confirming that India has entered Malaysian territory fighter jet tender, Indian Defense Minister Ajay Bhatt said six other countries had expressed interest in the HAL Tejas.
India tried to export Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), popularly known as Tejas, for several years. But is it true that the jet has so many potential customers? AeroTime is investigating.
In a statement to members of India’s parliament Bhatt said Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had received a Request for Proposal (RFP) from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) for 18 aircraft. In response, the company offered a two-seat variant of the Tejas.
Numerous reports have indicated that the Indian aircraft is one of the candidates for the Lead-In-Trainer (LCA/FLIT) Light Combat/Fighter Aircraft Program. The the tender has been posted in June 2021 and, by the end of the year, six nominations were being considered, according to local media.
Eight of the RMAF’s two-seat Teja are reportedly in training configuration, with an additional 10 aircraft in combat configuration.
“Other countries that have expressed interest in the LCA aircraft are: Argentina, Australia, Egypt, the United States, Indonesia and the Philippines,” Bhatt said in a statement. reported by Reuters.
So, let’s break this statement down, one country at a time.
The Argentinian case is complicated. Argentina was unable buy a modern fighter jet for decades due to sanctions imposed on the country by the UK.
Some reports even indicate that India offered Argentina a variant of the Tejas without British made parts. There has been no official information about further developments.
In 2020, the Australian Air Force announcement a tender LIFT (lead-in fighter trainer). The aim was to replace the aging fleet of BAE Systems Hawk 127 jet trainers.
The Tejas was one of the participants, along with the KAI T-50, the Boeing T-7A and a number of other aircraft. BAE also participated in the competition, with a proposal to refurbish existing Hawks.
In February 2022, the results of the call for tenders have been announced. BAE won, receiving a AU$1.5 billion contract to update Australia’s Hawks with new engines and other parts, extending their life to 2032.
So, as the tender has ended, it appears that Australia is no longer interested in procuring the Tejas.
The Egyptian Air Force The intention to purchase the Tejas was first announced at the 2021 Dubai Airshow.
Numerous meetings between Indian and Egyptian officials have taken place since the event, with local press reporting that HAL has offered to build a factory in Egypt to partially produce Tejas.
With the Egyptian fleet of MiG-29 and Mirage 5 get old enoughthe country is buy a new plane. In recent years, Egypt has ordered Lockheed Martin F-16s, Sukhoi Su-35s and Dassault Mirages, seeking to diversify the fleet as much as possible, while trying to escape some of the political constraints facing the country.
But the Tejas and India’s locally-made missile arsenal could be exactly what Egypt is looking for, hence the interest.
India offered the Tejas in response to a 2020 request for information from the United States Navy (USN) for the Undergraduate Jet Training System (UJTS) program. The USN is looking for a replacement for its McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk trainers, and the Tejas’ primary fighter trainer variant seems to fit the bill.
The aircraft was developed with carrier capability in mind, even performing aircraft carrier take-off tests between 2012 and 2020. However, the Indian Navy rejected the navalized Tejas for its many shortcomings, which led many experts to proclaim that the USN is highly unlikely to select the aircraft.
It is debatable whether HAL entering the UJTS tender really counts as US interest in the Tejas. However, to our knowledge, the aircraft is still being considered there.
There is very little information on Indonesia’s interest in the Tejas. While some unconfirmed reports suggest that Indian officials offered the aircraft to the Indonesian Air Force, Indonesia’s response remains not clear.
Indonesia is also a major customer for the South Korean KAI T-50 advanced jet trainer, commander the last batch in 2021. In addition, the country has a big stake in the next KAI KF-21.
The T-50 and its combat variant the FA-50 could be considered direct competitors for the Tejas, and there are no indications that Indonesia plans to further diversify its fleet of trainers and light combat aircraft, which already includes the BAE Hawk 200.
In May 2022, the Philippines signed a Memorandum of Understanding with HAL. The memorandum marked the Philippines’ interest in purchasing the Tejas, as well as some attack and utility helicopters. The Tejas has been spread participate in the country tender for multi-role fighter aircraft (MRF).
However, in July 2022, the The Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that it had shortlisted the F-16 and the Saab JAS 39 Gripen in the competition. According to the announcement, these were the only proposals the country received, meaning Tejas were not really a participant.
The PAF also has a fleet of KAI T-50s, and there is no information on other sourcing efforts that Tejas may be involved in. Therefore, the Philippines is an unlikely candidate to buy the Indian aircraft.
So, is the statement true?
Whereas Tejas is indeed competing in Malaysia’s fighter jet tender, Bhatt’s announcement of the other six countries declaring an interest in the plane does not appear to be correct.
Tejas is participating in the USN’s tender for a trainer, while Egypt and Argentina are in talks with India regarding the purchase of the jet. Meanwhile, the Australian tender has already ended and the Tejas has not been selected, the Philippines has also chosen another plane and there is no indication that Indonesia is interested in buying planes from the India.
That leaves only four countries in total – Malaysia, Egypt, Argentina and the United States – which could currently be considered potential customers for the Tejas aircraft.