UAE Defence Minister walks past with HAL officials, TEJAS  jet is also seen in the background

Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi Al Falacy’s visit assumes significance amid reports that the Arab nation has evinced interest in LCA Tejas

Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi Al Falacy, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, the United Arab Emirates, visited Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore on Wednesday. He was briefed on all the ongoing projects in HAL and taken around the Helicopter Complex, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Division and Hawk Final Assembly hangar.

UAE Defence Minister inspected several hangars, seen here is the LCH integration centre

“I am happy to be here and proud to see the sophisticated level of manufacturing which is in place,” said the minister. The minister’s visit assumed significance amid reports that UAE has shown interest in acquiring LCA Tejas. HAL said that he evinced keen interest in LCA Tejas.

“The minister visited the HAL manufacturing facilities which included the LCA Tejas division. He evinced keen interest in LCA Tejas, but nothing beyond that,” said an HAL official. Though LCA has been part of the IAF squadron for more than two years, it is yet to receive Final Operational Clearance (FOC) which is slated to take place by the end of 2018.

Visiting foreign dignitaries in the past have been showing keen interest in acquiring Tejas. Singapore Defence Minister, Ng Eng Hen, General David L Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, Chief of the Staff of French Air Force, General André Lanata have flown the aircraft while visiting India.

Apart from UAE, Singapore is also said to have shown interest in the aircraft. Though foreign nations have shown a liking for the aircraft, HAL’s primary task is to deliver the aircraft for the primary user, the IAF.

HAL has received Request for Proposal (RFP) to supply of 83 Tejas. Defence Acquisitions Council has cleared acquisition of 83 LCA for IAF and that production is planned from 2019-2020. The production of the 83 aircraft will start after the completion of the 20 Final Operational Clearance (FOC) standard LCA aircraft. Of the total 20 IOC aircraft (16 fighters and four trainers), five fighters have been delivered by HAL to IAF till date. The production of remaining 15 IOC aircraft (11 fighter + 4 trainer) are taken up at HAL. Apart from HAL, the UAE Minister also visited the Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) and Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) here.