India's TEJAS fighter is equipped with the British manufactured Martin-Baker ejection seats

A potential contract for 12 TEJAS could be curtailed given the British embargo on arms sales to Argentina

During the recent External Affairs minister's Dr. S. Jaishankar visit to Buenos Aires it was reported that  Argentina expressed the desire to strengthen bilateral defence links and cooperation, and at the same time it showed particular interest to acquire the India's indigenous TEJAS jet fighter for its Air Force.

However, the potential contract could be curtailed given the British embargo on arms sales to Argentina, which has so far frustrated a couple of deals, particularly for those aircraft with Baker's pilot ejector seat. Nevertheless Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the manufacturer of the fighter is making an effort to replace all British components of the TEJAS jet fighter, with Indian made components.

According to Indian media the TEJAS is a single engine, delta wing, light multirole fighter. Currently, HAL is set to export the Mark-1A variant of the TEJAS that features a new avionics suite, including an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, DARE Unified Electronic Warfare Suite (UEWS) and an Onboard Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) developed by the Defence Bioengineering and Electro Medical Laboratory (DEBEL) among other upgrades.

“A Radome is an electromagnetically transparent protective shield that encloses mmWave Radar sensors and the antenna. It protects the mmWave antenna and electronics from external environmental effects such as rain, sunlight, and wind, providing a structural, weatherproof enclosure. The TEJAS featured a Radome from Cobham Limited, a UK aerospace manufacturer. The indigenous Uttam radars will most likely replace it,” Girish Linganna, Aerospace & Defence Analyst explained.

According to Girish Linganna, “Another culprit is Dunlop, the Scottish brand that makes the tyres for the TEJAS. Indian manufacturer MRF Tyres is reportedly replacing Dunlop. Over 15 LRUs were sourced from various British manufacturers for the TEJAS. Currently, HAL seems to be calling upon the Indian industry, including various Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) like Bharat Electronics Ltd.,(BEL) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL), for innovative indigenous replacements to secure the Argentine contract.”

Ejector seats are a vital component and safety feature of fighter jets. Worldwide, the British manufacturer, Martin Baker, provides ejection seats for over 90 air forces. The TEJAS fighter also sports a Martin-Baker ejection seat. The company has pioneered the ‘zero-zero’ ejection seat that ensures the safe extraction and landing of the entire crew from zero airspeed and zero altitude. Finding an alternative without compromise is an arduous task that HAL must do to ensure the finalization of the order from Argentina.

“HAL is currently in talks with NPP Zvezda, a Russian manufacturer of ejection seats. Their K-36 ejection seat is a competitor to Martin Baker. In fact, NPP Zvezda was close to clinching the contract for even the American fighter F-22 Raptor and the Joint Strike Fighter. Currently, the K-36 sports various variants used in Russian fighters, such as the MiG-29, Su-27, Su-30 and Su-57. K-36 is also a zero-zero ejection seat at par with Martin Baker,” he added.

The price range for the TEJAS jet fighter stands at between US$ 30/33 million, a reasonable sum for Argentina short on funds but desperate to have an operational air force. Indian sources say that some 40/45 TEJAS fighters have been built so far for the Indian Air Force and Navy. Argentina's interest would be for twelve jets.