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Tejas emerges as Malaysia’s top choice for its new fighter jet programme

Hindustan Aeronautics chairman and managing director R Madhavan has said India’s LCA Tejas has emerged as the top choice for Malaysia as the Southeast Asian country looks at replacing its ageing fleet of fighter jets, news agency PTI reported.

Madhavan said Kuala Lumpur has narrowed down on the Indian light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas notwithstanding the stiff competition from China’s JF-17 jet, South Korea’s FA-50 and Russia’s Mig-35 as well as Yak-130.

HAL chief Madhavan said he is very confident that the deal would be closed soon unless some political shift takes place.

Madhavan said as part of the package, India has also offered to set up a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul facility in Malaysia for its Russian-origin Su-30 fighter fleet as the country is facing difficulties in procuring spares for the aircraft in view of western sanctions against Russia.

The HAL chief said the negotiation is almost in the final stages as India is the only country which is offering them the support for their Su-30 aircraft other than Russia. We are the only one who can support them to the extent that they require for the Sukhoi fleet, Madhavan added.

Madhavan said if the Tejas deal is sealed with Malaysia, it will give a “very good signal” to other prospective buyers and boost its overall export potential.

A team of high-ranking officials and experts is expected to visit India soon to take forward the procurement process, reports say.

Madhavan said Tejas is a much superior aircraft compared to China’s JF-17 and South Korean FA-50. The selection of the Indian aircraft would provide Malaysia with the option to go in for future upgrades of the fleet, Madhavan added.

Reports say besides the offer of maintenance of the Su-30 fleet of Malaysia, Tejas Mk-IA variant’s technical parameters were much better than the close competitor Chinese JF-17, though it was offered cheaper. 

The HAL chief said the Indian LCA is a much superior aircraft compared to JF-17 and FA-50 and that the selection of Tejas would provide Malaysia with the option to go in for future upgrades of the fleet.

“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,” Madhavan added.

The HAL has also started work on the MK 2 version of the Tejas as well as on an ambitious $5 billion project to develop a fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Madhavan said HAL is going to maintain the same level of services to Malaysia as it has been giving to the IAF. 

In February 2021, the Indian Defence Ministry sealed a 48,000 crore deal with HAL for the procurement of 83 Tejas fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).  

Asked whether the supply of Tejas jets to the IAF will be impacted if HAL wins the Malaysian contract, Madhavan said the production of the aircraft would be ramped up depending on the requirement.

According to the plan, the HAL would start delivering the jets (Mk-IA variant) to the IAF in 2025 and all 83 jets will have to be handed over by 2030.

Madhavan said if the deal with Malaysia is sealed, it will signal the acceptability of the aircraft, which would result in the opening up of many other options.

Kuala Lumpur is procuring the aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of Russian MiG-29 fighter planes.

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