A TEJAS Navy prototype takes from the National Flight Test Centre from Bangalore

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today said India has reached the level of exporting fighter planes to the world.

He said countries in South East Asia have shown interest in buying Tejas aircraft.

Earlier the Defence Minister flew in the indigenous fighter aircraft LCA Tejas in Bangalore.

After the flight which lasted around 30 minutes, Mr Singh said he chose the aircraft because it has been built indigenously.

The Defence Minister was accompanied on the flight by Air Vice Marshal N Tiwari, who is also the Project Director, National Flight Test Centre, Aeronautical Development Agency.
In a tweet, the Defence Minister said flying on ‘Tejas’ was an amazing and exhilarating experience. He said Tejas is a multi-role fighter with several critical capabilities and is meant to strengthen India’s air defence capabilities reports Janes 360.

Malaysia expects to formally launch a procurement effort for a light combat aircraft/fighter lead-in trainer (LCA/FLIT) to replace a number of its current platform types in the near future.

Speaking under the Chatham House Rule on 14 November, an official said that the Royal Malaysian Air Force's (RMAF's) plan to procure up to 36 LCAs with options for 26 more had been cleared at service level, and that governmental approval is now expected in the first quarter of 2020.

India had showcased the Tejas at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace 2019 (Lima) Exhibition in Malaysia, late last month, as part of Indian Air Force’s No 45 squadron that represented India at the defence expo.

Tejas, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), along with the Russian YAK-130, Sino-Pakistani's JF-17 jet Pakistan and Korea Aerospace Industry's FA-50 Golden Eagle are among the front runners to replace the RMAF ageing and unserviceable fleet of fighter planes.

Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Bin Mohammed and Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu visited the Tejas aircraft and interacted with team IAF during LIMA-2019

Malaysian PM was specially drawn to the neatness of the cockpit and the intuitive layout. The Royal Malaysian Air Force officials appeared really happy as the aircraft far exceeded their expectations. Clearly, we are not selling a product here but a capability in itself: Group Captain Samrath Dhankar. While India is reportedly dealing on a strict govt-to-govt basis, lobbyists for Pakistan are at work to get the nod for JF-17.

So, where does India’s locally-made fighter which got widely applauded for its agility and manoeuvrability at the LIMA show held in March 2019, stand vis-à-vis Pakistan’s JF-17 and Korea’s FA-50 Golden Eagle?

HAL confidence comes from the fighter’s superior technology and its ability to be customised as per Malaysia’s requirements. The RMAF (Royal Malaysian Air Force) officials appeared really happy as the aircraft far exceeded their expectations. Clearly, we are not selling a product here but a capability in itself.

The jet’s fly-by-wire capability, air-to-air refuelling, the avionics that have been wonderfully-integrated and the open architecture computer systems, where both Russian and Western weaponry can be assimilated, are all unique and demarcates Tejas as a different generation fighter.

Defence Attache in the Indian High Commission, Malaysia, Aniruddh Chauhan, who has been instrumental in bringing Tejas to LIMA 2019, said that, “Both India and Malaysia share this common military strategy of using both Russian as well as NATO weapons systems and Tejas has been built to make it adaptable to both.”

Malaysia has planned a two-stage procurement and in this two-stage process, RMAF wants to fill up the entire gap from the lead in fighter trainer, up to the medium range combat aircraft (MRCA). India is past the RFI stage, which is Request for Information, followed by RFP (Request for Proposal) which will be carried out only after Pakistan and South Korea also clear the RFI.

It is interesting to note that HAL, considering Malaysian interest in Tejas, gave out a little more elaborate information than required, for RFI stage, but lower than RFP round.

Pakistan’s JF-17, which is built on Chinese design and technology, which is deemed widely as a low-tech offering, did not show up in LIMA. Meanwhile pro-Pakistan media plugs seemed to have taken over the narrative here, after Tejas’s impressive show, claiming Malaysia would buy two JF-17 for ‘evaluation.’

Mr Dzirhan Mahadzir, a seasoned freelance writer on defence matters and Geo-political issues in South East Asia, debunks this claim. “No fighter jets are purchased only for evaluation.”

Talking about both India and Pakistan’s aggressive bidding, Mahadzir said while India is reportedly dealing on a strict government to government basis, lobbyists for Pakistan are at work to get the nod for JF-17.

Capt Martin A Sebastian (Retd), Senior Fellow and Centre Head, Centre for Maritime Security and Diplomacy, Malaysia, said, “The advantage with Tejas is there’s scope for not just transfer of India’s indigenous technology but also transform; this deal, if comes through, can help identify and build Malaysia’s own indigenous capacity in defence production.”

Following Mahathir Mohamad's statement, the major European fighters - BAE System's Typhoon, Dassault Aviation's Rafale and Saab's Gripen – are no longer in the running to equip the RMAF.

During Lima 2019, Malaysian news agency Bernama spoke to HAL Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan who sounded confident that Tejas is a fighter which will be able to fulfil the requirements of the RMAF.

"I do think we can offer a good package for Malaysia. We are the largest manufacturing company in this part of the world for aeronautics and aerospace and we have a range of products which we can provide Malaysia. Indian Air Force has been using Tejas since 2016 and we have also received over 120 proposals to replace their old jets, pending orders from them,” Bernama quoted him as saying on Sunday.

HAL has so far brought out 16 Tejas aircraft, after receiving initial operational clearance (IOC) for the IAF.